Tasty itinerary in the footsteps of the Tropea Red Onion PGI

A journey through the places of the Calabrian Red Onion
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© Regione Calabria

Food and wine

Feb 15, 2024 11:53 AM

Famous and appreciated all over the world, the Tropea Red Onion PGI is one of the undisputed symbols of Calabria on the plate.

The official denomination mentions Tropea, among The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy, in the province of Vibo Valentia, which holds its name high at an international level, but the production area is wider and allows for a true gastronomic itinerary along the Middle Tyrrhenian coast, to discover the places and recipes that feature the "Red of Calabria".

The Tropea Red Onion PGI

We could say that it is one of the few "reds" in the world that does not make you cry, so sweet and delicate is it. Yes, because the inimitable Tropea Red Onion is characterised precisely by its low degree of acidity, which makes it particularly delicious, perfect for every recipe from appetisers to desserts.

What makes it so sweet and unique? Several environmental and organoleptic factors.

Meanwhile, the high glucose and fructose content favours its palatability and its popularity on the international market as a true delicacy. The colour is another obvious marker that immediately recalls the beneficial substances that determine its violet hues: vitamins C and E, selenium, iodine, zinc, iron and magnesium.

In short, the Red Gold of Calabria is an "elixir of life" that has long since been awarded the prestigious PGI mark, recognition of a virtuous supply chain that is not limited to Tropea alone but involves no less than three Calabrian provinces.

Cipolla rossa
Regione Calabria

Some historical background? The red onion arrived on the Calabrian and Mediterranean coasts thousands of years ago, directly from ancient Mesopotamia; here it found its ideal habitat, evolving and taking on certain precise characteristics, such as its shape: whether it is the flat round type (April/May), half bell-shaped (May/June) or elongated (June/July), the Tropea Red Onion PGI Calabria preserves its ancient nature intact.

Queen of the Mediterranean diet, the "Red of Calabria" is exquisite when eaten raw, an unmissable ingredient in the typical Calabrian salad made with tomatoes and fresh onion, basil, chilli pepper, oil and salt.

It gives traditional recipes that extra touch that makes them special: from seasoning for sauces and ragouts to the most daring glazes, jams and marmalades.

On the trail of the "Red of Calabria"

First stop on our itinerary in the footsteps of the Calabrian onion can only be Tropea, an iconic destination in the province of Vibo Valentia, along the beautiful Costa degli Dei.

A walk along the characteristic Corso Vittorio Emanuele is enough to appreciate the folkloristic onion braids hanging from the balconies and outside the shops and small delicatessens that offer them as authentic souvenirs of taste.

At the end of the Corso there is one of Italy's most famous Belvederes: a picture-postcard view of the Sanctuary of Santa Maria dell'Isola, perched on a cliff, and the beach below.

Regione Calabria

The historical centre of Tropea, among The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy, is rich in ancient noble palaces, such as Palazzo Toraldo-Braghò, Palazzo Mottola and Palazzo di Gabrielli. Not to be missed is the Cathedral of Maria Santissima di Romania, in its monumental Norman style, with the adjoining Diocesan Museum.

Not only Tropea... Continuing south along the Costa degli Dei, we come across three other splendid places that produce the Tropea Red Onion PGI Calabria: Santa Domenica, Ricadi and Nicotera.

The first two offer breathtaking glimpses of the hidden coves and cliffs of Capo Vaticano; the third, in addition to the characteristic Scoglio Partuso, the enchantment of a medieval hilltop town, embellished by an ancient Giudecca and a castle.

Nicotera Cattedrale
Regione Calabria

Other localities worth visiting, among those that are members of the Consortium Red Onion of Tropea PGI Calabria, are to be found going up the Tyrrhenian coast towards the provinces of Catanzaro and Cosenza.

There are, in fact, large expanses of cultivated Tropea Red Onion PGI Calabria in the so-called Lamezia territory, i.e. between Lamezia Terme and Nocera Terinese.

Here, the red onion is combined with other local excellences, such as oil and wine, and a visit to the respective historical centres. The one in Nicastro, in particular, offers the presence of the main museums and buildings in Lametina: the Cathedral, the Diocesan Museum, the Monumental Complex of San Domenico (which includes the Archaeological Museum) and the oldest part of the centre, which climbs up to the ruins of the Norman-Swabian Castle.

Regione Calabria

Finally, the province of Cosenza offers tastings of its excellent Red Onion PGI in the medieval centre of Fiumefreddo Bruzio, among The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy and Slow Village, famous for the ruins of the Castle of the Valley embellished with frescoes by Sicilian painter Salvatore Fiume along with churches, chapels and historical residences.

Regione Calabria