A holiday in Tropea ticks every Italian box. It’s a historic town of squares and lanes, where dramatic cliffs tower over beautiful beaches by a clear, blue sea that’s the perfect temperature for swimmers from spring to autumn.
Tropea is in Calabria, right at the ‘toe’ of southern Italy, and it’s so established as a holiday destinations that Italians call this part of their country, the ‘Costa degli Dei’ or the ‘Coast of the Gods’. It’s also a favourite with German visitors, who enjoy the area’s many campsites. Though it’s not too well-known in the UK, you’ll hear English spoken, though, as many thousands of locals set sail for America in harder times and there are strong links with the States.
The town has a history stretching back to ancient times and some very fine architecture. The perfect day in Tropea would probably involve dining in palazzo cafés – super-sweet red onions are the local speciality – strolling through the town, swimming or sunbathing by the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Elsewhere, there are plenty of other resorts to explore along the Calabrian shore, beautiful countryside inland, and the Aeolian Islands are a must-see day trip. We offer a range of hotel and holiday types in Tropea, including all inclusive.
A holiday in Tropea is just the ticket for those who are happy doing not very much at all. The town’s chief attraction is its beach, a wonderful stretch of white sand underneath soaring cliffs where historic buildings perch. A westerly outlook makes for some stunning sunsets, and there are some watersports businesses on the sands.
The town’s historic centre isn’t large, and is best explored and enjoyed slowly and on foot. As you’d expect, some of the stand-out buildings are religious, including the Santuario Santa Maria dell'Isola, and the two churches of San Michele Arcangelo, and Sanita o dei Cappuccini. There’s also a small museum covering the history of the area.
The Aeolian Islands are the most popular boat trip from Tropea, and the seven islands are a must-see while you are here. Beautiful and historic enough to warrant UNESCO protection, the group boasts everything from volcanoes to astoundingly good food.
Italy has exported its cuisine around the world, so you’ll probably start your Tropea holiday with plenty of ideas of what to expect on the menus of the town’s many restaurants. The red onions grown locally are reputedly sweet enough to make into marmalade, and almost every town has a local speciality – in Pizzo Calabro, it’s truffles and a chocolate, hazelnut and fudge ice cream. Everywhere you go, you’ll find Italian staples like pizzas and pastas given a local twist and made with local ingredients. The African and Arabian influences of southern Italy mean plenty of spice, including in the famous nduja, a soft, pâté-like sausage. And being on the coast means plenty of boat-fresh fish, most famously the sardines that are enjoyed in pasta ccu ri sarde, a sweet and salty pasta dish. You’ll find great local produce wherever you go, including in Tropea’s markets. Try some of the local goats’ milk cheeses and enjoy the olive oil that’s one of Calabria’s biggest exports. Desserts often make use of the local liquorice, and you can enjoy your meal with rustic red wines before ending the evening with the local bergamot orange liquor.
If you’re travelling with kids, then a Tropea holiday has a lot to offer. However, this is still quite a traditional holiday area, and you won’t find big, expensive theme parks and the like. But if your kids like swimming, the seashore and sunshine, they’ll be in heaven. The culture of southern Italy is very child-friendly, and you may well find youngsters being made a fuss of in restaurants, and out and about.
The beach is the most popular family activity here, and if your kids are happy playing in the sand then they’re going to be very happy indeed. ‘Lido’ beaches – which often charge – offer more services, including kids’ clubs and child-minding. If they’re old enough, then rent some watersports equipment and set them free on the waves. While the medieval churches might not catch the imagination of every youngster, Calabria is also home to some of the most spectacular castles in Europe. There are great views from the towers of Castello Aragonese Murat in Pizzo.
Action & Adventure
Whether you’re walking hand-in-hand or with a stout walking pole in your hand, you’ll find some excellent hiking around Calabria. Coastal walks are a great way to get from beach to beach. Inland there are rolling hills and farmland that produces some of the region’s beautiful food. You can hire boats in Tropea, or join organised trips off shore. Italians love their watersports, and while this isn’t one of the surfing destinations, the clear waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea are very inviting. A favourite with locals is water skiing, and diving might come with the added extra of collecting some sea food, and keeping your eyes peeled for underwater archaeological finds.
The town’s beach is great quality. However, while the dramatic cliffs are undoubtedly one of the great draws of the town, they mean a long and sometimes steep descent from the town to get to the sands. However, if the climb is too much for you there’s no shortage of other beautiful beaches both within walking distance of the town and along this popular stretch of the Italian coast. There’s also quite a slope on the beach itself, so the water gets deep pretty quickly.
The Calabrian coast really does live up to its ‘Caribbean of Europe’ reputation, and there are plenty of other places to enjoy this beautiful area on your holiday to Tropea. Along the Costa degli Dei, the pretty fishing village of Pizzo Calabro boasts another lofty perch and astounding views. Capo Vaticano, at the southern end of the 30-mile coast, is reckoned to be one of the best beaches in the world.
Nightlife on your Tropea holiday is likely to be towards the quieter end of the spectrum. In fact, the most popular evening entertainment for locals is the ‘passeggiata’, an evening stroll for people-watching, chatting, and perhaps flirting a little – this is Italy, after all! If you’d like to join in, the Corso Vittorio Emanuele is the best place to start. There are some clubs to be found – Il Principe Chupiteria in the town – but most socialising is done at restaurants and café bars. Lido l'Oasi has a beautiful beach-side location, where you can enjoy barbecued fish or just sit with a drink watching the sunset. Bar Veneto Tropea in the historic town has a good reputation for its cocktails. This laid-back feel is pretty widespread along the coast, and if you really want to party all night you will probably have to make the journey all the way to Calabria’s capital, Reggio di Calabria, which is still a very long way from being a world-class clubbing destination.
Italy does romance very well, and the faded historic streets of Tropea have a magic all of their own for couples. At the height of the tourist season, Tropea’s beach can get busy, so early or late-season visits might be best for those seeking out a little solitude. But whenever you travel to Tropea for your holiday you’ll have a full list of romantic must-dos to tick off, from dining in pavement restaurants to watching sunsets from the top of the cliffs. A number of hotels in the town pop up on most-romantic lists – vine-clad walls and olive groves seem to hit the mark. While the towns have big stretches of sand that are popular with families, if you trek a little way along the Calabrian coast you’ll find plenty of more secluded coves, and the Aeolian Islands boast some of the most beautiful scenery – both inland and by the sea – anywhere in Europe.
The palaces and piazzas of Tropea are great evidence of the town’s rich history, which is best explored in the town’s churches or the Diocesan Museum. Like most of the area’s museums, it’s relatively small and of particular local interest. There is one world-class historic site in Calabria, though. It means a trip to Reggio, but the Riace bronzes in the National Archaeological Museum are worth the trip alone. Alongside these stunning Greek statues are huge collections beautifully presented in a refurbished museum that’s a credit to the whole region. Living culture is often religious in nature, but for something earthier try to be in town for the July festival of the famous local red onions – alongside more alliums than you can shake a stick at you’ll be assailed with a rich tapestry of local art and mythology.