There are many places in Italy where the sights you see with your own two eyes seem unbelievable... you can hardly trust what you are seeing. One of them is in Tropea, with it's Citadel on the Rock, which can easily be considered one of the most beautiful sights anywhere in the world. The coastline and the villages here are well worth exploring.
Tropea is a seaside resort with impressive scenery in the region of Calabria, in the south of Italy in the Vibo Velentia province. When viewed on a map of Italy, Vibo Valentia looks like a little frog sitting on top of the Boot's instep. Calabria itself can be considered the foot of Italy. The mountains here are nearly impossible to cultivate but there is a gorgeous coastline with villages perched atop rugged high cliffs. No part of the region is more than 30 miles from the coast--one on the Tyrrhenian Sea, the other on the Ionian Sea. Tropea is perched on a cliff above the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Calabria has often been considered poor by most Italians but in fact is very rich in both beauty and has a varied and interesting history. This stretch of coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea is called the Costa degli Dei (Coast of the Gods). The Ancient Greeks originally named this area, Entoria Tellus (Land of Wine). Being Part of Magna Graecia, the area is rich in Greek legends and mythology. Tropea's name comes from the Greek name Tropheum, referring to it being the trophy city of Hercules after he and Ulysses saved the town from two giants. It has become one of the finest summer holiday destinations--for Italians. Foreign Voyagers hardly know about the place.
Tropea's historic centre is perched high above the sea on top of dramatic cliffs. It would make a great hub for a longer stay in Southern Italy to explore Calabria, Sicily and perhaps even the Salento. The local rail line and ferries afford lots of options for travel, cutting down the need to drive. You won't find much English spoken here, but you will find some German vacationers and lots of Italians, especially during Ferragosto, enjoying their month long vacation at the seaside. In May, June and September, Tropea is cheaper and less crowded with weather still warm and sunny.
Anytime of day you will see visitors and locals alike taking a passeggiata down Corso Vittorio Emanuele, to shop, get a snack or meal, sit and people watch and catch the views of the sea at the Corso's end leaning on the railing right at the edge of the cliff. This view rivals the views from Sorrento with its views of Mount Vesuvius... from Tropea you can even catch a glimpse of the active Stromboli volcanic island!
Tropea has a laid back, rustic, timeless charm that is missing in Northern towns. Of course, the best thing Tropea offers besides its white beaches is its citadel on the rock. On the rock outcrop jutting into the sea opposite the historic center is Santa Maria dell'Isola, an active monastery with its gardens.
Side trips can easily be taken to Pizzo Calabro and Capo Vaticano, the two main towns in Vibo Valentia. In Pizzo you will find yet another village on cliffs over the sea, but you should visit its Church of Piedigrotta, a grotto chapel cared our of stone with amazing sculptures. You will find an amazing peaceful feeling in this cave with a lagoon nearby to refresh yourself in. Capo Vaticano has the most rugged cliffs imaginable with the whitest beaches tucked in between. Snorkeling is heavenly here, with waters so clear it's like diving in air. You can also take a ferry over to the village of Stromboli, on the volcanic island of the same name. It's most recent major eruption was in April of 2009. When you walk the streets of the white washed houses in Stromboli village, you will feel like you're in Greece.
All in all, you'll find Tropea and the Coast of the Gods to be a great alternate to Cinque Terra, the Amalfi Coast or the Italian Riviera. Depending on the time of year you visit, you might have the place all to yourself--well, nearly so anyway. The beaches cannot be beat anywhere in Italy. The climate is wonderful. The food is amazing... and remember, you won't run into throngs of other tourists there. Just you and Italians.
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