TROPEA: Living the Good Life in Calabria

February 12, 2013

I love summers in Southern Italy’s Calabria. Nothing feels better than trading in high heels and power suits for bejeweled sandals and straw hats. Here, life is taken at a leisurely pace. It is a time to enjoy long relaxed lunches, evening strolls and a laid-back approach to life that many of us strive to emulate in our daily lives. Italians refer to it as “La Dolce Vita,” the sweet life, and that it is.

While at times sleeping in is just what the doctor ordered, I enjoy waking up early, cappuccino in hand, and setting out along Calabria’s scenic coastline high above the Tyrrhenian Sea to the beautiful seaside town of Tropea. Few places remain relatively untouched by the modern world, and lucky for us, Tropea is one of them.

Unbeknownst to the prying eyes of tourists, Tropea is home to one of Italy’s most spectacular white sand beaches, turquoise-blue water, and a stunning coastline to be rivaled by Italy’s famed Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre.

Perfectly situated between Gioia Tauro Gulf and Sant’Eufemia Gulf, Tropea is swathed by warm Mediterranean breezes on a 40-kilometer coastline the Ancient Greeks named “Coast of the Gods.” What an incredible experience it is to see the dramatic rocky cliffs rise up against the sunlit sea of blue below, and if you’re fortunate, on a clear day you can see the volcanic Aeolian island of Stromboli.

Tropea is steeped in history and tradition with many ancient churches, palaces and artisanal workshops gracing its narrow streets. The most evocative of these is the famous church of Santa Maria dell’Isola built on a bluff jutting out to a brilliant sea. But don’t let Tropea’s laid back coastal vibe fool you, it is bustling with charming hotels, boutiques, lounges, cafés and restaurants that serve fresh local cuisine — some of the best on the coast.

Like a fine wine, Tropea continues to get better with age and provides the perfect ingredients for an unforgettable Italian vacation at a more affordable cost than other well-known cliffside towns. Is it any wonder I keep coming back? So what are you waiting for? Andiamo a Tropea!

• Locals believe Tropea was founded by Hercules who named it Tropeas (Trophy) for the prize he had discovered.
• Tropea is also famous for its “Cipolla Rossa,” a red onion with a mild and sweet flavour and aroma. It is Italy’s most famous onion. Local delicatessens use it to prepare red onion marmalade and local cafes serve up a delicious red onion ice cream. It may sound odd, but it’s a must try when visiting!
Tropea is located on a gorgeous coastline flanked by lots of beautiful sea towns and beaches like Capo Vaticano, Nicoterra, Pizzo Calabro and Ricadi. I highly recommend a visit to Pizzo Calabro, the birth place of the famous Tartufo ice cream and home to the Chiesetta di Piedigrotta; a seventeenth century church carved in a cave of soft rock facing out to sea that shipwrecked sailors created in gratitude for having been saved from a storm. It is a site you won’t forget.
If tranquility and romance are at the top of your wish list then look no further than the lovely Villa Paola. This fourteenth century monastery turned boutique hotel offers spectacular views of the Tyrrhenian Sea and with just six rooms and a private pool, Villa Paola feels more like staying at a friend’s luxurious home rather than a hotel. In addition, Villa Paola offers transfers from the airport.
For good value and private beachfront access Le Roccette Mare can’t be beat! The property provides all the amenities one would expect from a larger resort: restaurant, snack bar, sun umbrellas, deck-chairs, beds, pedal-boats, canoes, beach volleyball and table tennis. It’s the perfect place for a family getaway.
The entire region is known for its bounty of quaint local restaurants that serve up fresh local fare, and by fresh I mean the fisherman’s catch of the day. One worth mentioning is El Sol Ristorante E Pizzeria with a large outdoor patio, wood burning oven, open aired kitchen, and partial ocean views. Another I enjoy is Ristorante Tropea Vecchia, which serves up fresh local seafood. The décor is laid back and relaxed and the food is great.
Tropea is easily accessible by plane, train, or automobile. The closest airport is Lamezia Terme with direct flights from Toronto and Montreal during high season and connecting flights through Rome all year long. If instead you opt to drive and enjoy the views, you can make your way towards Tropea on the A3 Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway.

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