Santuario di Santa Maria dell'Isola di Tropea
Santuario di Santa Maria dell'Isola di Tropea
5 of 5 (2 Votes)

As we enter Tropea, the thought crosses my mind that you better not drop anything out of your window because retrieving it would be quite a task. The Lungomare, the boulevard, gracefully wraps around the rock upon which the old town perches. The houses seem like a straight extension upwards. There are essentially two Tropeas, one sits neatly on the ground, where most residents have their homes. And then, at dizzying heights, there's the other part.

Aperitivo Calabrese at Cantina Masicei

Wine Tasting and More Around Tropea

View wine tasting at Cantina Masicei

But we're not there yet. On the way to Tropea, recently declared the most beautiful village in Italy by 'Borghi piu belli,' we have time to stop at a vineyard with a breathtaking view of Tropea. At Cantina Masicei, we taste the Greco Nero and Magliocco from Masucei, as well as the Ruggia and Kanata. The Magliocco is their most commonly used grape, local to this area. Most of the wines they produce are blends, and now they also offer 100% organic wines.

Cantina Masicei, Strada Comunale Ciaramiti Brattirò, 89862 Drapia VV, http://www.cantinamasicei.it/
Cantina Masicei

But as they say, "no time for the wicked," we're soon on a 3-hour boat trip along the Costa Degli Dei with Sealife. On the way to Capo Vaticano, we pass a series of stunning beaches and caves. The water is absolutely pristine, with brightly colored fish swarming around the boat during aperitivo time, hoping for bites of typical Calabrian Sfizozi, such as pizza filled with ciacciotta or fried balls stuffed with 'Nduja. And as I discovered, this is a recurring theme in this region.

Tropea Sea Life, 89861 Tropea, Province of Vibo Valentia - http://www.tropeasealife.it/
Tropea boat trip

The breathtaking coastline has more than enough clichés to fill a book: turquoise waters, unspoiled beaches, dramatic cliffs, and intriguing caves where snorkeling is a favorite pastime. The rocks rising from the sea above harbor the most incredible ancient Greek legends that live up to their name.

The Costa degli Dei, the Coast of the Gods

During a 3-hour boat trip along the Costa Degli Dei with Sealife (@sealife.ee) to Capo Vaticano, we passed a series of beautiful beaches and caves. The water is crystal clear, with brightly colored fish swarming around the boat during aperitif time, hoping for bites of typical Calabrian 'Sfizozi', such as ciacciotta-filled pizza or airy fried balls stuffed with a touch of 'Nduja. This is a recurring theme in this region.

Costa degli Dei

La Costa degli Dei stretches from Pizzo in the north to Nicotera in the south and is filled with charming beaches, stretches of golden sand, and rocky coves accessible only by boat. Divers and snorkelers can explore the seabed here. You can even see the volcanic Aeolian Islands, including Mount Stromboli, from here. The Prai di Fuoco beach and the beach at Baia dei Riace are just a couple of the beautiful white sandy beaches along the Costa degli Dei.

Capo Vaticano on the Costa degli Dei

The Costa degli Dei is a stunning coastline along the Tyrrhenian Sea in Calabria with its own stories and myths. While they may not be as internationally recognized as those of more famous Italian regions, here are some legends and stories associated with this Calabrian area:
Firstly, there's the Lovers' Rock in Tropea: there's a legend about a rock where two lovers were turned into stone by a sorceress because their love was forbidden by their families, a familiar Romeo-and-Juliet story but with a Calabrian twist. The beautiful sanctuary in Tropea, Santa Maria dell'Isola, located on a rock by the sea, is said to have been built over a statue of the Virgin Mary found on this rock, believed to protect the city. Of course, there are numerous stories of pirates and Saracen raids. The caves along the coast were often used as hideouts when Saracen pirates attacked the coastal towns. There are many tales of hidden treasures and local heroes defending their towns against these invaders.

Finally, there are the ghosts and other creatures; every region in Italy has its own stories of ghosts, creatures, or mysterious events. In Calabria, there are stories of "lupinari" (werewolves) and "mammalucchi" (undead). So if you encounter them, be cautious!

Tropea City

Tropea from the Sea

It's a maze of streets and squares in the centro storico, all more or less leading to Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the main street, paved with large shiny rectangular stones. While the hinterland, particularly the wineries and agriturismi, beckons me more, the coast and the tourist-infested town of Tropea (even in October) I prefer to escape. It took me an hour to find a shop where I could buy something as simple as a hairbrush because I left mine in the last hotel. The town is almost constantly buzzing with tourists, and there isn't much besides souvenir shops, bars, and restaurants, some of which are excellent, by the way. I can imagine that with fewer day-trippers, the town would feel cozy and quaint.

Crystal Clear Sea

On the other hand, there are the unparalleled beautiful views of the monastery and the coast that I can't argue with, making a trip here an absolute must. Just remember, you can drive to the old town, but unfortunately, only a long, steep staircase will take you to the beach, so keep that in mind when booking your stay.

Sights in Tropea

The cathedral, though that's a grand word for the church built by the Normans around the 12th century, which has since been transformed into the current church with Baroque and other influences, sits on the central square and more or less dominates the cityscape. At the other end of the street, you can gaze upon an unparalleled seascape, a beautiful spot to watch the sunset, by the way.

Tropea beach

Just a stone's throw from the center, rises the Santuario di Santa Maria dell'Isola di Tropea, like a fairytale image against the backdrop of the azure sea. This enchanting church, proudly perched on a rocky hill, is more than a religious monument; it is a symbol of Tropea's rich history and culture. It's quite a climb to the top, but you're rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view, both literally and figuratively. While the waves gently lap against the coastline, the sanctuary offers a peaceful escape and a perfect photo opportunity. Don't forget to bring your camera to capture this piece of paradise!

Fish for Lunch, Fish for Dinner in Tropea

Tropea beaches from the sea

But this elevated part of Tropea is just a diversion, something you can do in between. The real action is down below, where in the summer, thousands of Italians exchange their city flats for fine white sand and translucent waters, perfect for snorkeling, interspersed with fish for lunch and fish for dinner.

Tropea Today Is as Crowded as Venice in August

Evening in Tropea

In recent years, Tropea has gained more recognition abroad, and given the size of the town, it quickly becomes very busy in the narrow streets and on the beaches, and you'll stumble upon souvenir shops everywhere. Even outside the high season, there are still many Chinese and Japanese visitors, to the extent that the hotel where I stayed even served rice at the breakfast buffet. There are also quite a few emigrants from the American continents visiting their families because Calabria experienced a significant population exodus in the years after WW2.

Downtown Tropea with many cozy restaurants

Snorkeling and Diving to Ancient Shipwrecks

The best way, of course, is to take a boat trip. The coast boasts an abundance of dramatic cliffhangers, and between Nicotera in the south and Pizzo in the north, there are plenty of white sandy beaches that will remind you of islands in the South Pacific with swaying palms and blooming cacti. In the clear water, it's easy to spot swimming fish and even ancient Roman walls. I've been told that swimming in one of the caves accessible only from the sea is spectacular.

There are several hotel resorts along the coast where touroperators offer rooms and apartments, especially in the slightly more northern Pizzo.

Where to Eat in Tropea

By now, we've worked up an appetite, and one charming restaurant after another tempts me with delicious menus. I ultimately decide to try 'La Lamia' in the city center, with a lovely terrace out front. It was a choice along the lines of 'God bless the grab,' and this god was kind to me. For starters, I had the cheese-filled eggplant with caramelized onions (made from the famous sweet red onions of Tropea), followed by delicious grilled scampi with bergamot oil. I had no regrets.

Ristorante La Lamia, Largo Vulcano, 6, 89861 Tropea VV, Italy - http://www.lalamiaristorante.com/

Ristorante Ambrosia, apparently, it's hit or miss at this restaurant, which claims to serve 'Food for the Gods.' It's in a charming location in the city center, and I found the quality to be excellent. However, the reviews are mixed.

Ambrosìa “il cibo degli Dei”, Largo Tommaso, Largo Toraldo Grimaldi, 3, 89861 Tropea VV, Italy

Il Convivio, if you're in the mood for a simple but delicious pizza, this is the place to go. They have an overwhelming variety and the opportunity to try the famous 'Nduja.

Ristorante - Pizzeria Il Convivio, Via Boiano, 10, 89861 Tropea VV, Italy - http://www.ristoranteilconvivio.it/

Our Accommodation Recommendations

Let me start by saying that Capo Vaticano is my chosen place if you want a sea view. The beaches are far below, so walking isn't a good option, but most hotels provide transportation. 
The hinterland is beautiful, and you'll stay amidst vineyards.

L' Arcobaleno Resort: Beautiful location, near viewpoint. Well-kept garden with a delightful swimming pool. Spacious apartment with a huge balcony. The staff is very friendly and helpful. The price/quality ratio is incredible.

L'Arcobaleno Resort, Località Belvedere, 89866 Capo Vaticano VV - Prices and Reservations

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Piazza Ercole
89861
Tropea
VV
Calabria
Italy

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