In this blog post, I will take you with me to the gorgeous town of Tropea. I can already here you guys thinking; “Ok, but where exactly is that?” I got that question a lot, when I was telling friends and family about my latest trip to La Bella Italia. Tropea is a magical town in the Calabria region of Southern Italy. The city is considered the “Pearl of the Tyrrhenian sea”. It’s a very popular destination for Italians during the summer months, but you won’t find many internationals tourists there. Tropea is known for its stunning beaches, charming historical center and delicious food. If you are looking for a sunny destination which is still very much of the beaten path, Tropea might just be the place to be for you!
We spend five days in this gorgeous hidden gem of a city. This gave us about the right amount of time to relax at the beach, enjoy the most beautiful sunsets, wander around the adorable historic center and go on day trip. We absolutely had a blast, without further ado; the best things to do in Tropea.
Let’s go to the beach-each
The best thing to do in Tropea is without a doubt spending some time at the beach. Tropea’s beaches are among the best in Italy. This stretch of the coast is known as Costa degli Dei, or the Coast of the Gods.
Most of the beach in Tropea is public, which means that the beach is free, but you have to bring your own towel and umbrella. There are also a few beach clubs where you can book a sunbed and umbrella like Blanca Beach, Lido Isola Bella and Le Rocette Mare. We spend two days at Le Rocette Mare and really enjoyed our time there. When you book a spot in an Italian beach club, you will have to decide upon the number of umbrellas, their position on the beach and what types of beach chairs and loungers you need. Usually, the closer you are to the water, the more the umbrella costs. In Calabria, Tropea tends to be one of the most expensive in terms of beach clubs. We paid € 42 for two sunbeds and an umbrella per day.
Wander the streets of the historic center
You could easily spend hours wandering through the streets of Tropea. The center is a pedestrian-only area, lined with restaurants, cafes, shops and centuries old buildings.
Corso Vittorio Emmanuele is the main street. The street takes you through the heart of Old Town Tropea and really gives you a feel for the culture of coastal Italy. Corso Vittorio Emmanuele leads you towards the Affaccio del Corso viewpoint. From where you can enjoy stunning views over the Santa Maria dell’Isola sanctuary and the sea.
The Santuario di Santa Maria dell’Isola di Tropea is perhaps the most prominent landmark in Tropea and a point of pride to Calabria. The story goes that in the 11th century, Benedictine monks found a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary washed up on the shore. Pilgrims traveled from afar to visit the statue and be healed. From the Sanctuary of Santa Maria you have wonderful view upon Tropea’s cliffs.
Also worth a visit is the Norman Cathedral. It’s one of the few remaining landmarks in the city. The main altar features a painting of the Madonna of Romania, Tropea’s patron saint. She’s protected Tropea from many disasters, including earthquakes and bombings in WWII, when two bombs fell but didn’t detonate. These two bombs are now on display inside the church.
Take in the sunset at Capo Vaticano
For absolutely stunning views, be sure to head up the coast to Capo Vaticano. It’s only a short drive from Tropea. The views of the coast are impressive, with the white rocks rising from the water, and on a clear day you also have excellent views of Sicily and the Stromboli. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset! You can also take a boat tour from Tropea harbor. This way you’ll have the chance to view the coastline from the water.
Day trips from Tropea
If you’ll be staying in the Tropea area for a while, make sure to visit some of the beautiful villages nearby like Pizzo or Scilla or go on a cruise to the Aeolian Islands. As we were only in Calabria for 5 days, we only had time for one day trip. I do wanna share with you the other popular day trips from Tropea too though.
As Scilla was recently named one of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy by CNN, we opted to go there.
The tiny village lies on the Strait of Messina, believed to be the mythical location where dog-headed sea monster Scylla attacked the ship of Ulysses in “The Odyssey.”
The oldest and most picturesque part of Scilla is the locality of Chianalea, also called Little Venice because of its position almost submerged in the waters of the sea. It’s characterized by houses lapped by sea water, colorful boats, strolling cats and hanging laundry. Such a picturesque sight.
The journey by train from Tropea to Scilla took about an hour. Make sure to check the timetables, as the trains runs about once an hour.
Pizzo is a picturesque fisher village. Like Tropea, the historic center is built on a cliff overlooking the sea. Pizzo has become a modern town and holiday resort renowned for its wide sandy beaches, clear sea, enchanting old town and rock-filled coves. The village is mostly known for the Tartufo di Pizzo, an artisan ice-cream with a rounded shape and an irresistible heart of melted chocolate. That alone sounds like reason enough to visit it someday right?!
Just like Scilla, Pizzo can be easily reached from Tropea station. It also takes about an hour.
Another very popular day trip from Tropea is a cruise to the Aeolian Islands. There are eight Aeolian Islands in total, located in the sea north of Sicily. Stromboli, with its hugely active volcano is the highlight of the trip, but the island-hopping experience also includes time for shopping, lunch and sunbathing in Lipari and Vulcano.
Several tour companies offer these kind of boat trips from Tropea harbor. If we would have been in Tropea longer, I would have loved to go island-hopping and explore Stromboli Island.
Tropea is best known for its coveted red onions. You’ll see them hanging in bunches from carts around town and in many shops selling produce. We had them in a pasta dish and it was absolutely delicious. Another specialty from the area is Nduja, a pork paste mixed with chilly and spices. Being on the coast, you’re going to find a lot of fresh seafood too.
Terrazza degli Dei – Lovely restaurant with a terrace overlooking the Santa Maria dell’Isola sanctuary and the sea. The restaurant specializes in seafood dishes. I can highly recommend the Shrimp pasta!
Vecchio Granaio – according to TikTok, Vecchio Granaio has some of the best pizza in Calabria. I don’t know if it’s the best in the region, but it was definitely the best I’ve had in Tropea.
That’s Amore – if you are looking for a low key place in the heart of Tropea this is it. The pizzas were really good and very reasonably priced!
Frida’s – Mexican restaurant with a Frida Kahlo theme. I know… Mexican food in Italy?! But yes! As a matter of fact besties, run! Don’t walk. This restaurant is an absolute gem; lovely vibe, delicious cocktails and food and the owner was one of the nicest people we’ve met during our trip.
Café de Paris – A gelato a days, keep the doctor away right? Come here to enjoy a delicious gelato while people watching on the cozy terrace.
Where to stay?
Many visitors choose to stay closer to the sea so they won’t have to climb up and down every time they want go to the beach. Others prefer to stay in the city center. This way can enjoy the splendid views and greater variety of shops, bars and restaurants. To me, it really breaks down to your preference. Personally I wasn’t very much impressed with the option at the beach, and as I also prefer to stay in the midst of it all, we booked a hotel in the city center.
Le Due Sicilie
During our time in Tropea we stayed at hotel Le Due Sicilie. The hotel is housed in the 15th-century Palazzo Granelli. Hotel Le Due Sicilie is a simple hotel. It’s the perfect option if you don’t have a big budget and still want to stay in a good location. The hotel is located in the heart of Tropea and upon 5-minutes walking distance from the beach. As it was my birthday we got upgraded to a suite in the modern part of the hotel for two nights. The room was quite large and offered a nice terrace. Unfortunately after two nights, we had to move to the room that we originally booked, which was really small and located in the older part of the hotel. Because of that I would recommend to look at all the various room types in detail and book one of the rooms in the modern part. Hotel Le Due Sicilie also has a very cozy patio, where a delicious breakfast is served in the morning.
If it’s the ultimate luxury experience you’re after, Villa Paola can’t be beat! The hotel is located on a quiet street just outside Tropea harbor. It’s set in a carefully restored convent which dates all the way back to 1530. Villa Paola’s splendid garden is filled with wisteria, bougainvillea, jasmine, palm and orange trees. The many terraces and large infinity pool offer breathtaking views over the Tyrrhenian Sea. We went to Villa Paolo for a little Birthday Aperitivo and were in absolute awe with this hotel.
• The closest airport is Lamezia Terme Airport, which is about 60 km’s from Tropea. Major airlines operating from this airport are Ryanair, Alitalia, Easyjet, KLM, Air France and Helvetic Airways among others.
• Public transportation between Lamezia Terme and Tropea isn’t that well organized, so we decided to take a taxi. We made reservations in advance through Booking.com and paid € 70 one way.
• The best way to explore Calabria is probably by car. Keep in mind that the center of town is pedestrian-only, so if you are driving, you will have to park outside of the center.
• English is not widely spoken in the Calabria area. The people are really nice and are trying to help, but things often get lost in translation. You definitely have an advantage if you know some Italian.
• Currency: Euro (€)