Tropea is nicknamed the Pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea and is located on a viewpoint at about 70 metres above sea level. It is the best-known Calabrian resort, with its walls, its towers, its gates, its sandy beach and a charming medieval historical centre. Legend has it that Hercules, returning from Spain, stood on the coast of the Gods to establish Tropea, that became one of the ports of Hercules. In truth, Tropea's history begins in Roman times when, along the coast, the first villages were founded.
Due to its unique position of viewpoint overlooking the sea, Tropea played an important role, in Roman times, under the rule of the Saracens, and especially under the Normans and the Aragonese.
The beaches below the cliff of Tropea are white and contrast in a magical way with a limpid and crystalline sea, with colours that range from turquoise to deep blue.
Discovered by illustrious travellers in past centuries, it has experienced a considerable reputation throughout the world due to its extraordinary natural and architectural beauty. In fact, in Tropea it is possible to combine the beauty of the sea with a cultural and artistic itinerary of great interest while taking in its breathtaking landscape. The old part of the town is located on a viewpoint overlooking the sea, facing the spectacular island which houses the Chiesa di S.Maria dell’Isola (Church of St Mary of the Island), which is the town's symbol and is also one Calabria’s most photographed. The santuario Santa Maria dell’Isola (shrine of St Mary of the Island) can be reached by a steep staircase formed in the rock itself of the islet and around the church, it is possible to admire a splendid garden filled with Mediterranean plants, with magnificent views of the sea that offers a very impressive scenic view of the entire coast. In the background, the Aeolian Islands with Stromboli and Vulcano can be glimpsed as well as Sicily with Etna and the vast Tyrrhenian Sea. The beaches below the cliff of Tropea are white and contrast in a magical way with a limpid and crystalline sea, with colours that range from turquoise to deep blue.
The old town centre is rich in churches of various eras and impressive buildings that preserve within them valuable treasures and precious urban furnishings in excellent condition. All buildings feature offer eighteenth-century balconies, many of which overlook the sea and imposing portals in the main entrances and built by skilled craftsmen. The village is enclosed in a maze of narrow streets that suddenly open up into wonderful squares that overlook the sea or its green terraces. The cathedral, founded in Norman times and remodelled several times in order to remedy seismic damage, boasts two Gothic portals of great charm and some interesting works in its interior. There are various legends in Calabria that revolve around the building, such as that relating to two unexploded bombs present at the entrance and that bear witness to the protection granted by the Virgin to Tropea. Inside the old town centre we can find the small workshops of, carpenters, smiths, weavers and pottery-makers, together with many small shops managed by farmers of the area that sell typical local products from the countryside, such as olive oil, wine, fresh eggs, and above all, Tropea’s famous red onions, with all its derived products. Tropea is also equipped with a modern tourist port, equipped with all comforts and a short distance from the old town centre. The Port of Tropea is one of five ports of Hercules chosen together with other four ports of the Mediterranean, due to the aforementioned legend. The harbor allows to reach Capo Vaticano, Parghelia, Ricadi, Tropea and Zambrone, mandatory stops in an itinerary where the leading star is the transparent sea, framed by white sandy beaches from where visitors can enjoy amazing views.
Shrine of St Mary of the Island
The shrine is one of Tropea's icons. The legend tells that a Madonna of wood arrived at Tropea transported from the Near East and that the mayor of the village wanted to give it a place of honour in a natural niche of the islet. Due to its small size of the niche, a carpenter was asked to saw the legs off the statue, to be able to fit it in the niche. However, a sudden paralysis of arms prevented the craftsman from concluding his work so today the statue rests undisturbed inside its shrine, which is well worth a visit. Its clear layout and finely decorated building was built on what was once an island, while today it is connected to the mainland by a strip of beach. Built by the Basilian Fathers, the shrine was a hermitage that became in time a small church dedicated to the Madonna dell’Isola even if the statue on the altar represents the Holy Family. The church was then donated to the Benedictine Fathers and from then belongs to the Abbey of Montecassino. The islet is particularly impressive and, on the side, facing the sunset, a picturesque grotto opens up with emerald walls.
Tropea's sea is unanimously considered among the most beautiful in Italy. This is due to the thick white sand sand which is responsible for its crystal-clear water and intense colours. Tropea's beaches can be reached through three roads and four staircases that depart from the Duomo di Tropea, Largo Galluppi, Rione village and from the Convent. Spiaggia del Cannone is the area’s least visited beach; a small oasis hidden between the marina and the Scoglio di San Leonardo, unknown to the general public and ideal for spending days relaxing by the sea. Spiaggia della Rotonda is considered Tropea’s most beautiful and therefore tends to be one of the most crowded. The area near the rocks with a deeper seabed, is a true paradise for snorkelling lovers. Spiaggia 'A Linguata, as suggested by the word, is a long stretch of white sand that offers bathing establishments and public beaches, particularly suitable for those visit the sea with children. The grotta del Palombaro (Diver’s Cave) can only be reached by sea and its beach is small and intimate, sheltered by a large cave. Spiaggia Passo Cavalieri is among the most unspoilt, being positioned in the shelter of the sandstone cliff covered with trees and Mediterranean vegetation. Two circular recesses in the rock that resemble the shape of a pair of eyeglasses give the name to the area of caves of Tropea, populated by small bays and coves that break the cliff's monotony. The Grotta Azzurra (Blue Cave) gets its name from the light rays entering inside which create spectacular displays of light and colour the water of an intense blue.
Sacred and profane
As in many Calabrian villages, often rites and traditions mix together the sacred and the profane in equal measure, creating events that are both impressive and fascinating. “I Tri da Cruci” is an event that celebrates the triumph of the Holy Cross and during it, Tropea is adorned with lights, decorations, stalls, perfumes, flavours and welcomes its visitors to the beat of drums. This event is connected to three events closely linked to the history of Tropea's Community characterised by numerous natural disasters, from raids by Turkish pirates and Saracens and by the war events during the conquest of the south. The name of the event is linked to the first event, which recalls the presence of three wooden crosses, situated on a small church with a cylindrical shape, that resembled a small tower. Located in via Umberto I, it was devastated by a hurricane in 1875 and to replace this small church, Tropea's citizens built a shrine dedicated to the souls of Purgatory, placing the Three Crosses in the nearby church. The second event is tied to the heroic deeds of Colonel Gaspare Toraldo and his fellow villagers during the battle of Lepanto, who received all honours due to defeating the Turkish pirates near Capo Stilo. The story told is that the return of the survivors was preceded by a dove sent by soldiers themselves to inform the citizens of the victory of the Cross against the Crescent Moon.
The third episode recalls the permanent expulsion of Saracens from Tropea and for this event, silhouettes of the boats are made which are loaded with fireworks, hung from one side to the other of Via Borgo. During the festival they are set on fire creating a spectacular display of lights. The re-enactment consists in the dance of the “Camiuzzu i Focu”, to mock the ancient enemy to the frenetic rhythm of the “caricatumbula “; the shape of a camel stuffed with fireworks is set in fire, which burns together with the animal’s agonizing dance and which is out out, between barrels and sparks.
The “festa de i tri da cruci” takes place throughout the day starting from the morning with dances by the “I Giganti “ (giants) throughout the town. The giants are normally represented by a white woman named Mata and a black warrior named Grifone; two tall phantoms of papier-mâché that are carried on the shoulders while dancing to the rhythm of drums. In the evening, to conclude, a re-enactment of the battle and the liberation of Tropea takes place, re-enacted by Tropea’s folk music group.
The agricultural sector is also well-known, it includes among its products the famous Tropea onion, already known at the time of Pliny the Elder. Exported for two thousand years, the red onion has built its reputation around Italy and the world thanks to its sweet taste, a feature that is not found in any other onion among the 50 existing types. This characteristic is favoured by the microclimate of the area, mild and without temperature changes in the winter, thanks to the proximity of the sea, and the particular soil fertility. In addition to its sweet taste, it is also easily digestible. Another trait of the onion is its intense red colour. In July at Tropea, the festivities of the “Sagra del Pesce azzurro” and of Tropea's red onion take place, which pay tribute to the traditional local cuisine and its main products, attracting a great number of visitors. During the course of the event, visitors can taste numerous dishes based on red onion and blue fish. The festival also envisages making stands available where local businesses can display their specialities, obtained with using traditional artisan methods and which refer to ancient recipes of the local tradition.
Largo Municipio, Tropea