Tropea is one of the best places in Italy to experience a classic Italian beach holiday. With breathtaking rock formations and grottoes, beautiful beaches, and a timeless historical old town, it exudes that quintessential southern Italian charm.
One of the most iconic landmarks in Tropea is Santa Maria dell'Isola; a small church clinging to a stone cliff. It's one of the most photogenic attractions in Calabria and a must-visit during your stay in Tropea.
1. The Old Town
Tropea's clifftop old town is a warren of tiny lanes and squares perfectly positioned to admire the area's spectacular sunsets. From the little cafes perched on the cliffs to the beach below, it's easy to lose yourself in this charming Italian town.
One of Tropea's most famous landmarks is the Santuario di Santa Maria dell'Isola, which towers above the historic quarter and features in all those postcards from the coast. Scaling up 300 steps to the Benedictine monastery that once sat on the island is a sweaty affair in high summer, but it's worth it for the spectacular views across the blue Tyrrhenian Sea and beyond to the Lipari archipelago with its smoking cone of Stromboli.
There are plenty of things to do in Tropea and beyond, from boat tours and minicruises to parasailing along the coastline, or exploring the citrus groves and vineyards just beyond the city walls. If you're looking for something a bit more cultural, take a day or evening tour to the islands of Vulkano, Lipari and Stromboli.
2. The Beaches
Tropea’s beaches are a major draw, and deservedly so: vast golden shores, impossibly blue water and fewer crowds than elsewhere in Italy. There are more than a few good spots to dip your toes, including the town’s Spiaggia della Rotonda, a sandy beach beneath the cliff-top palazzi, which is often the most photographed, and Parghelia, an area popular with locals for its tranquility, and sheltered by rocky walls, that’s a great place for snorkelling or diving.
You can also find a smaller stretch of sand at the port, and on a busy day we found it useful to escape the crowds by heading to the rocky jetty in front of the port, where there is a thin sand spot and a beautiful view over the sea below.
The main beach in Tropea is also well worth a visit, with a patchwork of coloured umbrellas on the golden sands. If you’re a family, we highly recommend swimming all the way around the isola to get the most out of the crystal clear water, and kids will love splashing around in it.
3. The Churches
If you’re looking for a postcard-perfect spot, visit the Santa Maria dell’Isola Monastery, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking Tropea. Trek up the 300 steps that lead to a 6th-century Benedictine sanctuary, which is one of the town’s most photogenic spots.
You can get to the monastery by a series of winding staircases cut directly into the cliff side. The climb is worth it for the views from the top of L’Isola Bella (the “Beautiful Island”), which is surrounded by the Tyrrhenian Sea and, on clear days, also offers spectacular glimpses of the Aeolian Islands.
You’ll also want to see the 12th-century Cathedral, home to marble sarcophagi and a painting of the Madonna of Romania, the town’s protector. On 27 March 1638, she appeared in the bishop’s dreams, warning him that an earthquake was imminent and protecting the people from harm.
4. The Restaurants
There are a few different restaurants around town that serve traditional Calabria cuisine. You’ll find local seafood, pasta and grilled meats on the menu.
A big draw is the sweet red onion – the main ingredient in many dishes, especially Licurdia (onion and potato soup) and 'Nghiambara, a flour-based frittata. You’ll also find a variety of ice cream and latte di mandorla, a type of almond milk drink.
Tropea is a laidback seaside town that combines old-world architecture and European charm with plenty of cobblestones to walk on, sidewalk cafes and a beach. It’s an ideal place to spend a relaxing holiday.