From the Amalfi Coast to the Italian Riviera, Italy is home to some of the most beautiful beach towns in the world. But while Positano and Portofino are household names, the south boasts hidden gems like Tropea, the pearl of Calabria’s “Costa degli Dei” – or Coast of the Gods. This stunning stretch of aquamarine sea begins in Pizzo Calabro, hometown of the famous tartufo gelato, and extends to Nicotera but its unrivaled pearl is certainly Tropea.
Built upon a rocky cliff that looks out onto the sea, the views of the beach are unparalleled and the town is full of charm and excellent cuisine. Tropea, after all, is home to the Cipolla Rossa di Tropea, a fragrant red onion that is used to flavor everything from pasta and pizza to arancini rice balls and even gelato. Here’s everything you need to see, do and eat in the seaside town.
Tropea Travel Guide
Head to the Beach
You’re probably in Tropea to spend long days languishing on the powdery white sand: it’s truly one of the best stretches of sea I’ve seen in all of Italy. Not only is it beautiful, with views of the town and the sanctuary perched above you, but the water is crystal clear and exceptionally buoyant. It’s easy to spend the afternoon floating to the sound of children splashing in the water and people jumping off the rocky cliffs. Most of the stretch of beach is public, meaning you should come equipped with your own towel and umbrella (and ideally lunch, though there are a few beach bars in walking distance). There are also a few beach clubs where you can book a lounger, like Blanca Beach Club and Lido Isola Bella.
Explore the Town
Tropea is a picturesque borgo with enchanting alleys, balconies and cafes set in its piazzas. The “Affaccio del Corso” in the centro storico has the best view in town and looks out onto the monastery and beach below (you can find the lookout at Corso Vittorio Emanuele 58). To shop for quality local food products, check out the historic Enogastronomia Lorenzo and don’t miss the quaint bottega Arte d’Amare with cute driftwood fish and other souvenirs. In the evening, the town comes alive as people take a pre-dinner stroll and stop at its many bars for aperitivo. Stop by Caffe del Corso for people-watching in one of the main piazzas, or enjoy a craft cocktail at the cool Al Migliarese.
Visit the Monastery
The most iconic sight in Tropea is Santa Maria dell’Isola, a monastery set upon a rocky promontory that overlooks the sea. The origins are unclear but it was likely built by Greek monks until the Normans arrived in Calabria in the 11th century. It has Byzantine mosaics inside but has been rebuilt over the centuries due to earthquakes (the current facade was rebuilt in 1908).
Where To Eat
Ristorante La Lamia
Tropea’s al fresco dining scene is almost unparalleled: every restaurant seems to be set in the quaintest little piazzas or along the most picturesque little alleyways. La Lamia is nestled in a pretty little courtyard and has a great vibe along with an excellent menu of local specialties. Order the Fileja alla Tropeana, a traditional Calabrian pasta with a rich tomato sauce tossed with eggplant, zucchini and red onion, and local Cirò white wine.
Vecchio Forno is a great budget pizzeria in Tropea and the lively atmosphere makes it great for groups and families with kids. It won’t win any awards for its pizzas but it’s a place I return to over and over because the owners are lovely and it’s the perfect place to enjoy a €5 margherita after the beach.
Gelateria Tonnino is right near Tropea’s lookout point so pick up a cone and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the beach below. I love the pistacchio and almond flavors, but if you’re adventurous you can try local variations like red onion, olive and even tuna.
One of the best eateries in town, Alice Restaurant serves excellent fish dishes like paccheri pasta with red prawns and licorice, salmon tartare and tuna with Tropea’s famous red onions. It’s slightly more upscale than other restaurants but great value considering the quality. Vegetarians and meat-eaters will also find dishes they can enjoy on the menu. Book in advance.
Located steps from the centro storico, Donna Orsola is the place you want to dine for a special occasion. This gourmet restaurant was a local favorite in the nearby countryside and recently opened in town to much fanfare. The contemporary dishes, service and atmosphere approach Michelin-level: look out for dishes like squid-ink linguine with sea urchins and smoked provola and tagliolini with fish roe and bergamot.
Where To Stay
If you’re looking for a resort in Tropea, Villa Paola is an elegant 5-star property set in a 16th century convent with an outdoor swimming pool, panoramic gardens and cloister. The Hammam Suite is the most sumptuous accommodation with separate living area and private Turkish bath. Guests must be 18+.
Palazzo Mottola is an elegant hotel that blends history with contemporary, seaside decor. With its blue and white color palate, it is airy and stylish. The panoramic terrace, set on two levels, is equipped with an American-style bar for drinks and dinner each evening. Opt for a room with a sea view.
A quaint bed & breakfast located on a quiet street in centro storico of Tropea, Le Terrazze has guest bedrooms and apartments available for rent. The building dates back to the 18th century and has a lovely terrace you can enjoy at breakfast or for drinks at sunset.