12 Reasons Why Tropea Is Italy’s Best Kept Secret Holiday Destination

People enjoying the beach in Tropea, Italy.

Tropea, a seaside town on the Calabrian Coast, is where Italians go on holiday, it's their little secret. (Image: via Dreamstime.com © Travelbook)

Tropea, a seaside town on the Calabrian Coast, is where Italians go on holiday, it’s their little secret. This is not a well-known destination for international travelers.

12 of Tropea’s best-kept secrets

1. The old town is from medieval times, and civilization in the area goes back as far as 4,500 B.C. So it’s got some incredible history to discover — old monasteries, palaces, and fortifications. Hercules is said to have named it one of his ports.

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2. The water is crystal clear, turquoise, and warm. The sand is white. The weather is excellent.

3. The town is protected by the Saint Virgin Mary of Romania, and there’s a good story to back that up. It goes like this:

First — there is a painting of the Virgin Mary of Romania dating back to about 1330 hanging in a cathedral in Tropea. That picture was acquired in a most curious, auspicious way.

Sitting atop a cliff, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Isola, Tropea, Italy.
There is a painting of the Virgin Mary of Romania dating back to about 1330 hanging in a cathedral in Tropea. (Image: Petr Jilek via Dreamstime)

“Legend says that a boat coming from the East-Byzantine Empire (hence the name Virgin Mary of Romania) was driven into the port of Tropea by a storm,” according to ItaliaOutdoors.

“After repairing the damage, the captain tried to leave, but the ship still stayed in the harbor. That same night, the Bishop of the city, Ambrogio Cordova, dreamed of the Virgin Mary asking him to stay in Tropea and becoming its protectress. The dream repeated itself for several nights. Eventually, the bishop summoned the senior officials and the citizens, and together they went to the port to take the picture of the Virgin Mary. As soon as the painting was brought to shore, the ship departed.”

And so, the Virgin Mary promised to protect the city from earthquakes, wars, and pestilence. Many events have taken place that the locals see as her protection. Seems like a safe place to visit if you are reverent enough.

4. The city sits on top of dramatic coastal cliffs. The views are endless and stunning. The hike up and down from the beach will get you fit.

5. Fresh Southern Italian food. Fish, lamb, goat, sausages, sweet local red onions, and preserved vegetables in olive oil — all will help you regain the weight you lose hiking up and down to the beach.

6. The old town has no specific tourist attractions, just a maze of lovely lanes, pilazzi, and cafés to wander through. It doesn’t attract big tour groups for lack of important sites.

7. Tropea is on the Tyrrhenian Sea, along what they call the Costa degli Dei, the “Coast of the Gods.” Sounds good, right?

8. There are very low levels of marine pollution in this area due to the lack of industrial development. Italians consider it a natural paradise.

9. The town offers fine resorts and camping grounds. You could catch a train or drive a camper van down.

10. Tropea is big enough and interesting enough to use as a base for a longer holiday. The local railway and boat trips allow you to explore without a car.

11. There are dolphins. And water this color.

12. It’s not hard to get to. The closest airport is in Lamezia Terme, and there’s a little scenic train route to Tropea around the coast that only takes an hour. For more details, this website offers a great rundown of the area and needed travel details.

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