I’m finishing the second leg of my Italian adventure. I’ve spent the last five days in the seaside town of Tropea. As soon as I arrived, I slowed waaaay down after being in the city life of Rome. Here, there’s nothing more important to do than lounge on the beach or have an aperitivo with a friend.
Il Dolce Far Niente
There’s an Italian concept, il dolce far niente, which is about just slowing down and enjoying life. Not having an action-packed agenda. Just…being.
I can get down with that, and there’s nowhere better to practice it than Tropea.
There are a few sights to see here, like the church that sits on a rocky outcrop by the sea, Santa Maria dell’Isola. You get there by climbing what by most standards are a lot of stairs, but as I’ll explain in a bit, isn’t a lot, comparatively. The church is modest and free to visit, and if you want to explore the gardens behind, filled with graffitied cacti and olive trees, the fee is 3 euros.
After a quick jaunt to the top to see the stunning views of the aqua waters below, that was all the action I needed, and I spent the afternoon lounging on the beach and floating in the breathtakingly clear water.
Getting a Workout
I mentioned stairs. Tropea is not for the out-of-shape, at least not if you want to get to the beach. The city sits on top of the cliffs above the water. The only way down is down about 200 stairs, and the only way up is…yeah. My legs are in top condition as a result!
The town itself is a joy to walk around, with winding cobblestone streets that lead away from the main touristy area filled with shops and gelateria (gelato is BIG here) and into the quiet, shady neighborhoods. I rented an AirBnB in a Palazzo that had been owned by a noble family until it was broken out into separate apartments. It’s amazing how nonchalant Europeans are about the age of their buildings. In America, we think a 100-year-old building is old!
If You Must DO…
I, as I always do, made fast friends my first day. I met an American and an Iranian who both lived in Milan, and we had a few adventures together. One day, we took a 15-minute train ride north to Pizzo, another charming beach town. Pizzo is known for being the birthplace of the ice cream treat tartufo. The word also means truffle, but not in the pigs-hunting-them sense. More of the chocolate truffles you may have enjoyed, but these are made of ice cream. Typically they’re balls of ice cream, about the size of your fist, with a gooey center. You can get chocolate, pistachio, cream, or bergamot, among other flavors. Bergamot is a citrus fruit that only grows in the south in Calabria.
So naturally, once we arrived in Pizzo, that was the first thing we did: eat tartufi!
We meandered through the main streets. I noticed there were fewer tourists than in Tropea, but it’s just June and I think tourist season picks up in July/August (COVID notwithstanding). We made our way, about an hour from the train station, to the Chiesa di Pedigrotta. This church was carved into the rock right by the sea, and has dozens of gorgeous statues carved by a man and then his son over a period of decades. Remarkable.
One Last Look at Tropea
On our final day, the three of us decided to take a boat and snorkeling tour. Such a great way to say goodbye to Tropea.
I don’t get the opportunity to snorkel often, what with San Diego waters being really chilly and not that clear. Snorkeling in Tropea was a different story: the water is so clear and azure. There wasn’t much to see except a few fish and rocks, but I still loved it.
Oh, and then there was the grotta. We’d call it a grotto in English, but it’s a cave, this one underwater. There are many grotte along the coast in this part of Calabria, but this was my first time swimming into one.
After our day at sea, we said a final farewell to Tropea with a little gelato. Arrivederci, Tropea.