Two of Britain’s leading newspapers, The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times, have declared its beaches the best in Europe. One visit to Tropea in Calabria and it soon becomes clear why.
It is one of Southern Italy’s most popular resorts, both with holidaymakers and with people keen on buying a property. In Tropea there are several pleasing features that make it the perfect sunshine getaway.
Take its long, inviting sandy beaches, lapped by the turquoise-blue sea and overlooked by spectacular cliffs. Not for nothing is this stretch of the Calabria shore known as La Costa degli Dei (The coast of the Gods).
The town is on Calabria’s western Tyrrhenian coast and in common with rest of this part of southern Italy it basks in glorious sunshine for almost 12 months a year. But there is much more to Tropea than just sun, sea and sand.
Folklore has it that the town was founded by Hercules. Whatever the truth, by the second century BC Tropea had already become one of the region’s prominent centres. It would later be conquered by the Byzantines, Saracens and Normans. This rich, chequered history means it boasts a trove of monuments and places of cultural and artistic interest, many with majestic views over the sea.
The town’s Norman cathedral dates from the 12th century but bears some much more recent additions – two American unexploded bombs from the Second World War, each of which now bears a solemn prayer.
Tropea’s old town is a warren of picturesque streets, each seemingly more charming than the last. This area is also full of shops selling local produce, the best-known being the town's red onions, also used to make jam and – even more improbably – ice cream. Other common local items include wine, olive oil salami and eggs.
Facing the old town is a 2,000-year-old Benedictine sanctuary, Santa Maria della Isola, which sits on a rocky outcrop. In times past it was completely cut off from the mainland and served as a haven for seamen and hermits. These days it can be reached by a set steep steps carved from the rock.
The grounds of the sanctuary contain a beautiful garden that offers a panoramic view of the island of Stromboli as well as Sicily’s Mt Etna.
While you are here it would be almost sacrilege not to visit nearby resorts such as Zambrone and Torre Ruffa. The best way to get there? Head down to Tropea’s port and hire a boat and skipper to take you the short distance. Sheer bliss.