Let me start out by explaining that I. Hate. Crowds.
And heat. And crowds when it's hot.
So it was with a little reluctance that I agreed to visit my friend Lynn in Tropea for her birthday. Because if there's one place guaranteed to be hot and crowded in Calabria in August...it's Tropea.
And yet...I had a fantastic trip! Since she is a local now, Lynn helped my travel buddy Anna and I have a fantastic trip with zero stress. Here's what we recommend.
1. Stay at Sea Level
Most people opt to stay in the city center, which sits on a cliff overlooking the sea. They then hike up and down the stairs to go to the beautiful beaches of Tropea.
Lynn recommended doing the opposite. We found a sweet little B&B, Residenza a Due Passi Dal Mare, which I highly recommend. It sits in a small neighborhood on the edge of the marina, five minutes from the beach, with plenty of parking. And it was affordable, even in early August. Oh, and most importantly? There's parking, which is at a premium this time of year!
We only went into the city center a couple of times. There's much more at sea level than I knew. There was a market just two minutes from where we were staying, and plenty of food options. The only thing I couldn't find was gelato, so we did go into town so I could get my fix!
2. Dine at a Tropea Lido
While I'm sure the lidi will get more crowded as August passes, I was surprised at how many empty tables there were, at least at the early hour of 9 pm. Many of the visitors to Tropea are Italians, and they often eat at home with their families, whereas other tourists will eat in a restaurant.
Eating at a lido, or beach club, puts you right on the water, and if you go for aperitivo, you can enjoy the beautiful Tropea sunset. We had aperitivo and dinner at Sunset Beach Club, located toward the end of the lungomare.
The open-air terrace was the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset, and the food and drinks were great. Be warned, though, there's loud live music, so it's not the ideal place for catching up with friends!
I will say that it's always smart to make a reservation for dinner anywhere in Calabria. Even if there are empty tables, many are often reserved for a later dinner.
3. Hop Over to Capo Vaticano for a Spa Day
I've already gushed about how fabulous Capo Vaticano Thalasso Spa is, so I'll keep this one short. Rather than visit the spa, this time we spent the day by the pool. For one price, you can get an umbrella by the sea and/or by the pool, but since the waves were fierce, we opted for the pool.
In the morning, we nearly had the place to ourselves, but the kiddos arrived in the afternoon.
We also had an amazing lunch steps away from the pool. We recommend the grilled caciocavallo (a local Calabrian cheese) with honey, peppers, and hazelnuts, though they change the menu based on seasonality, so you'll be lucky if you can order it!
4. Don't Skip the Marina
TBH, I didn't even know Tropea had shops and restaurants at its marina until this trip. There's a sweet little Marina Village (that reminds me of San Diego) with several bars and restaurants. At the end is an amphitheater that offers free concerts.
Anna and I made the mistake of waiting to eat lunch until 2 p.m., when most restaurants near where we were had stopped serving lunch. Fortunately, we stumbled upon the award-winning Kalavri Pizza at the marina. The pizza was innovative and delicious!
Before celebrating Lynn's birthday at dinner, Anna and I had a drink at La Maison and watched the sunset. Again, hardly anyone was there because people tend to flock to the city center and the more popular lidi on the other side of the church (Santa Maria dell'Isola).
Her birthday dinner was at 3Nodi, and I can't recommend it enough. The food and wine were sublime (thanks Anna for the wine recommendation that was so good, we had four bottles!). I loved the lobster pasta! The service was spectacular. And they even provided a tiramisu cake for Lynn!
5. Enjoy Yoga at Villa Paola
Lynn has been teaching yoga at this incredible place, Villa Paola. and I was dying to see it. The villa, once a monastery, sits perched on a hill just outside of Tropea, though it's only a 15-minute walk from town.
This refuge is the perfect place for her yoga and meditation classes (interested? You can book a class online). It was so peaceful, I didn't want to leave.
After meditation and yoga, Anna and I stayed for breakfast, which I recommend. You can make your own yogurt parfait, and the staff will customize an omelet for you. Here we are in our post-yoga glow!
I definitely would love to stay here (maybe in the off-season, as rooms are at their most expensive in August).
All in all, I was surprised at how unstressful this trip to Tropea was. Perhaps it was because we went early in August, and the throngs hadn't yet arrived. But I suspect it was because we didn't feel like tourists, since we had a local showing us around who knew how to maximize our time there.