Beaches in Tropea and Other Things to do in Tropea
Crystal-clear waters, a lonely monastery on a rock promontory and mind-blowing sunsets, the beaches in Tropea and the surrounding area are some the most beautiful, yet underrated, in all of Italy.
It comes as no surprise that the area is called La Costa Degli Dei (Coast of the Gods) by locals, and, with an abundance of things to do in Tropea and around, the region is truly a perfect and affordable destination for a beach holiday.
We found the beaches in Tropea and those on the adjacent coast to be mind-blowing, with shimmering turquoise waters and lovely golden sands. But that’s not all. The small fishing villages lining the coast around Tropea, as well as the delicious local food, contributed to very welcome relaxing and tranquil vibes which made us feel immediately at ease.
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Where is Tropea?
Tropea lies on the west of Calabria in southern Italy, on a coast renowned for its beautiful beaches and impressive scenery. The beaches in Tropea are its most prominent feature among sun-worshippers, but other things to do in Tropea and the surrounding coast, make it a remarkable destination for anyone looking for a relaxing vacation.
During our stay we couldn’t help but notice that Tropea was popular with German and Austrian tourists in campervans, but not particularly popular with English speakers, although it is not difficult to get by in Tropea itself, even if you do not speak Italian. Other areas of Calabria might present more of a challenge to non-Italian speakers!
Getting to Tropea
The closest airport to Tropea is Lamezia Terme, the airport being about an hour’s drive away from Tropea. With cheap international flights to Lamezia, courtesy of Ryanair, flying to Lamezia is both affordable and convenient. Trains from Lamezia Terme Centrale to Tropea run several times a day, with ticket prices which cost about €5. You can take a shuttle bus or taxi from the airport to Lamezia Terme Centrale.
You might choose to spend a couple of days in Lamezia Terme, but honestly, you’re better off heading to the coastal areas which are more beautiful and more interesting. We found Lamezia itself to be very sleepy with few attractions.
The airport in Reggio Calabria on the other hand, is about 1.5 hours’ drive away from Tropea. Trains also run from Reggio di Calabria Centrale to Tropea.
Reggio Calabria Is definitely worth a full day’s stay, even if just to take a look at the famous Bronzi Di Riace statues in the Museo Nazionale Della Magna Greca, a large museum set on several floors, entrance €8 each.
A beautiful place to stop between Reggio Calabria and Tropea is the fishing village of Scilla, which alternatively, can be also be visited on a day trip from Tropea. We have included Scilla on our list of best things to do in Tropea further down! We highly recommend spending half to one full day exploring the immensely scenic and fascinating village!
When is the best time to visit Tropea?
With typical southern European weather, the beaches in Calabria are best experienced during the months of June to September, though May and October are pleasant too. July and August are definitely the most popular months, with many German and Austrian tourists, as well as northern Italians flocking to its lovely coast and golden sands.
Best Beaches in Tropea and in the Costa Degli Dei (Coast of the Gods)
The beaches in Tropea are undoubtedly its gem, and spending time on the beach is certainly among the best things to do in Tropea, Italy.
Although Tropea itself is home to a lovely beach, the coastal area which Tropea is part of, also has some great beaches which are beautiful enough to rival those in Tropea. In fact, if you’re looking for a quieter spot, you might want to move outside of Tropea proper, and go further up or down the coast to look for a more isolated area, especially during peak season.
Every part of the coast has its own beach, some of which we think are more beautiful than others. Quite a few resorts have sprouted along the coast too, leading to some of the beaches having their access limited as private resort beaches. Many small individual stretches of beach have names, which even locals are sometimes not aware of, whilst others are simply part of the larger beaches.
Unless you intend limiting yourself to Tropea proper (which is very small), you will need your own vehicle to get to the best beaches in Tropea and the other coastal areas. This part of Italy is really one area in which public transport is totally unreliable, and many beautiful spots are not accessible unless you’re driving your own vehicle. On the other hand, traffic was never too bad, and the use of motorcycles/scooters is also popular.
Let us give you the low down of our favourite beaches in Tropea and the Coast of the Gods.
Tropea Main Beach – Mare Piccolo – Best Beaches in Tropea
We arrived at Tropea’s main beach just in time for sunset and what a spectacle that was! We were already looking forward to spending time on the beaches in Tropea, but we had not realised just how beautiful sunset viewing from Tropea’s main beach would be!
Once we saw the resplendent turquoise waters from Tropea’s viewpoint, we could only gaze in awe at the beautiful sparking hues and couldn’t wait to get down into the water! The beach was far less busy than we thought it would be and we found a fantastic spot all to ourselves, from where we could fully enjoy one of the best beaches in Tropea.
The most beautiful stretch of beach is that to the right of the Santuario di Santa Maria dell’Isola di Tropea (the little island/rock upon which a sanctuary is built, which we have also included in our list of things to do in Tropea – more on that later). There’s also another stretch of beach to the left of the ‘island’ which is home to some lidos and bars, which we believe is less beautiful than the stretch on the right.
A little sandy ‘hidden’ area is accessible through a little rock tunnel within the island itself. Just walk around the left side of the island and you’ll spot it immediately. We were lucky to find an empty spot to lay our towels here and enjoy the golden sands and water.
You can park your car before entering the main town of Tropea and walk right across town and down to the beach. Alternatively, you can drive your car right down to the road adjacent to the beach, but finding a parking spot there might prove to be rather difficult! Parking in the street is rarely free, so do take note of the parking meters!
Grotticelle Beach at Capo Vaticano – Best Beaches in Tropea
The lovely Grotticelle Beach is visible from the lighthouse at Capo Vaticano and is actually one of three beaches. The most accessible of the three is down a steep hill, at the bottom of which is a rather expensive parking area. If you are lucky you can find free parking spots on your way down the hill, or perhaps at the start of it, and walk for a few meters.
Grotticelle is one of the most popular beaches in Tropea and the surrounding area, and tends to get crowded in the summer months, although it was pleasant enough in June when we were there. There are some boat trips you can take from Grotticelle beach across the sparkling blue waters, along parts of the coast which are otherwise inaccessible.
You can also rent a paddle boat and make your way to adjacent bays hidden among large rocks. Visibility in the water is usually very good, making Grotticelle a good snorkelling spot, though the marine life is nothing to write home about.
The waters at Grotticelle beach are crystal-clear and quite shallow, although they do get deeper further out, and its great location makes it one of the favourite beaches in Tropea and the coastal area. We personally preferred the quieter and less popular beaches, but if you’re looking for ‘beach life’, you’ll find it here!
Santa Maria Beach – Best Beaches in Tropea
Santa Maria Beach, down the road from the little Santa Maria village, was where we decided to base ourselves for a while, since it seemed a little off the beaten track from the more popular beaches, with less people, but which anyway sported brilliant turquoise waters.
The beach is not as developed as Grotticelle, and we were happy to sit in the shade of a local beach house and spend our time reading and enjoying the view. We were actually befriended by the elderly man who lives in one of the beach houses, and who told us a little about the area’s history and described what the winters on the beach are like. Lucky for us that we speak enough Italian to also understand the local dialect!
Find it on a map! – Santa Maria Beach
Stromboli Beach – Best Beaches in Tropea
This beach is so-called because of its rather lovely view of the Stromboli volcano, and is one of the less popular beaches in Tropea and the surrounding area, if crowds are anything to go by.
We arrived in Stromboli beach late afternoon in time for a dip and sunset, and although the water here is not crystal-clear, the relative isolation of this beach made it one of our favourite swimming spots!
Find it on a map! – Stromboli Beach (Spiaggia di Torre Marino)
Piedigrotta Beach – Best Beaches in Tropea
This stretch of coast is mostly popular for its beautiful cave shrine which is one of the best things to do in the Tropea area (although closer to Pizzo).
We’ll tell you more about the cave in the following ‘Best things to do in Tropea’ section, but we should mention that the golden beach here, although not as pretty as the actual beaches in Tropea, is in a very convenient location, and makes for an awesome swimming spot. Check out our photos below!
Find it on a map! – Piedigrotta Beach
This long stretch of white-sand beach in Nicotera Marina, shimmers when seen from Nicotera village located above it. We did not actually swim at this beach, but the sands looked so dazzling and so empty from above, that we’re pretty sure that you can find your own little spot to enjoy the waters, despite the fact that we could see many resorts and lidos lining the beach!
Find it on a map! – Nicotera Beach
Other things to do in Tropea and the Coast of the Gods
Besides the beaches in Tropea there are a few other reasons why you might want to visit the Coast of the Gods. There are not many other things to do in Tropea itself, besides visiting the stunning Santuario di Santa Maria dell’Isola di Tropea, and savouring the local cuisine, but there are plenty of other places to visit just outside Tropea.
Many of the following attractions are located 15-60 minutes’ drive out of Tropea, except for Scilla which is just a bit further out. It is difficult to find reliable public transport in Calabria, so we do highly recommend that you rent a car/scooter to drive to many of the places mentioned below.
Climb up to Santuario di Santa Maria dell’Isola di Tropea
Besides the beaches in Tropea, the town’s other gem and one of the best things to do in Tropea, is to visit the little sanctuary located at the top of an ‘island’ (which is adjacent to the mainland and can be accessed on foot), and take in the wonderful views from up high.
The walk up to the top of the island is way easier than it might look, though we do advise you not to attempt it in the midday sun. If you do, be sure to carry loads of water!
Entrance fee – €2, there’s a little garden besides the sanctuary in which you can walk around. The island and church are just beside Tropea’s main beach, you can’t miss it. Keep in mind that this is a holy sanctuary, so make sure to dress appropriately (no dripping and revealing swimwear) as you’d be turned away.
Eat your heart out in Tropea
One of our favourite things about Calabria is the availability of genuine, authentic, mouth-watering, southern Italian food! Being a hilly, forested region surrounded by a massive coastline, Calabrian food is characterised by simple vegetable dishes, tons of grilled fish and also ‘meaty’ products, typical of forest cuisine.
The most famous of all Calabria’s food is probably the Nduja, a soft and (very) spicy spreadable sausage or paste which goes down a treat with the with bread, olive oil and pasta. Fileja is a typical pasta shape found in all of Calabria, whilst a range of cheese, in particular pecorino, caciocavallo and salted ricotta are easy to find, best washed out with some full-bodied wine (regional of course)!
The one ingredient which is typical to Tropea itself though are Tropea’s red onions (Cipolle di Tropea), known throughout all of Italy for their unique sweetness, bunches of which are often taken back home as souvenirs. In Tropea, you will find many products such as jams and preserves made from the red onions too.
Platters of a variety of fish and seafood are easy to find in Tropea, whilst typical Italian aperitivo (drinks and appetisers) is served in many of the bars on Corso Vittoria Emanuele.
Pizza and pasta restaurants line Tropea’s roads and piazzas, and if you find them tempting, we highly recommend that you try versions that include typical Calabrian ingredients such as Nduja and red onions. You won’t find them anywhere else! Fileja with Nduja has to be my favourite Calabrian dish, and the version I had in one of the restaurants in Tropea was particularly mouth-watering!
Other southern Italian dishes are just as easy to find in Tropea, and although some outlets might be geared towards tourist palates, bad food is hard to come by!
Explore Tropea’s Centro Storico
The beaches in Tropea might be all the rage, but if you’re looking for other things to do in Tropea, taking a slow walk around the Centro Storico (historical centre) is a good idea. With pretty streets and charming narrow lanes dotted with cute cafes and ice cream shops, the Centro Storico is easily worth your while.
Bunches of red onions and chilli pepper hang from both restaurants and souvenir shops, whilst a deeper look will take you to crumbling buildings with a more urban feel, narrow steps and holy churches. The old town vibe contributes to a lovely walk before tucking in to that plate of fileja and house wine!
Take in the views from the Lighthouse at Capo Vaticano
There’s nothing very special about the actual lighthouse at Capo Vaticano, but oh those views! Shimmering hues of greens and blues in the distance, prickly pear trees and the rugged coast… this has to be one of the best things to do in Tropea!
Capo Vaticano is a 20-minute drive away from the centre of Tropea. There’s a café with lovely views a few metres away from the lighthouse.
Savour the rich tartufo at Pizzo
Back to food and the deliciously decadent tartufo in the town of Pizzo, an hour’s drive away from Tropea. Tartufo is an ice-cream dessert, typically combining two ice-cream flavours in a ball surrounding fruit syrup or fudgy chocolate whilst the outside of the ‘ball’ may be covered in nuts, chocolate powder or a chocolate shell.
Whichever flavour you might choose (chocolate & hazelnut, pistachio and white chocolate, lemon, amaro etc) the combination is always sinfully sweet and highly addictive.
A range of neighbouring cafes offer tartufo in Pizzo’s piazza, and we didn’t notice any particular differences between them, every one of them seemed as decadent as the other! We secured our spot at Dante’s and cannot recommend it enough! Do yourself a favour and get a tartufo in Pizzo and you’ll thank us forever! The price of a tartufo is around €6 – €7.
Find it on a map! – Pizzo
Explore the Chiesetta di Piedigrotta
The Church of Piedigrotta, is on the road leading to Pizzo, you just need to stop a few minutes before reaching Pizzo proper. There’s a car park where you can park your car at around €5 for the day, or as we did, park (for free) a few meters further away.
A small path leads down to the beach from the main road and this is where you will find a grotto full of religious statues and carvings right on the beach. Entrance is €3 each and it closes from 2pm – 3pm. There’s an interesting legend associated with the existence of this cave too, which makes it all the more fascinating!
Also, the beach right in front of it, makes for a good swimming and tanning spot. You can easily spend the afternoon here, after visiting the little chapel. We’ve heard that it can get busy during the summer months but when we went in June, there was barely anyone.
Find it on a map! – Chiesetta di Piedigrotta
Take in the views from Castello dei Ruffo in Nicotera
The 18th century castle in Nicotera offers magnificent views over Nicotera Marina, whilst Nicotera itself is a pretty enough town perched high on a hill with infinite panoramic coastal views.
The castle built in Norman-style architecture, is home to three different museums, which are open to visitors, although when we were there in June, they were all closed. There’s also a Jewish quarter right behind the castle which we explored, but it wasn’t particularly notable.
The drive through Nicotera on roads and lanes lined with prickly pear along the coast from where the sea was almost constantly visible, was absolutely gorgeous, and the views from Castelli Dei Ruffo was well worth the drive!
Nicotera is 30-40 minutes’ drive away from Tropea.
Take a walk in Briatico
The fishing village of Briatico turned out to be a lovely surprise, seeing that we almost didn’t stop there, thinking there wasn’t anything worthwhile experiencing. It eventually turned out to be one of the most picturesque things to do in Tropea and the surrounding areas.
Briatico is 25 minutes away from Tropea on the same coastal road leading to Pizzo. Clearly the main attraction here are the ruins of the Rocchetta tower in the old town which was destroyed. The fishing village vibe is still very much felt in Briatico. When we visited some time in the late afternoon, fishermen were dragging in their nets as the local families sat on the beach and surrounded by baskets of fresh food.
The walk along the cliff coast is also particularly scenic, with wide views of blue and green seas giving only a hint as to how pretty the beaches below must be.
Go on a day trip to the fishing village of Scilla
Scilla, lying around half-way between Tropea and Reggio Calabria has to be one of the most scenic places in all of southern Italy with immensely clear waters and gorgeous views from its Castello Ruffo.
Scilla is the stuff of legends – it is actually thought to be the home of Scylla the six-headed monster, referenced in Homer’s Odyssey. Scilla is divided into three parts of which Chianalea, an ancient fishing settlement, is the most charming.
A walk here, leads to several small cafes on the water’s edge, flanked by historical buildings and slipways with colourful fishing boats. Scilla’s speciality is swordfish and you’ll see lots of souvenirs and decorations depicting the long fish, whilst cafes serve all kinds of swordfish dishes, including a delicious swordfish panino.
We have to say that Castello Ruffo is mostly worth visiting for the wonderful views over Chianalea to one side, and Marina Grande to the other, where soft sands meet the wonderful turquoise waters. Entrance to Castello Ruffo is €2 each.
Scilla is approximately 1.5 hour’s drive from Tropea.
Find it on a map! – Scilla
Three-day itinerary around Tropea
If you’re only spending a short time around the Tropea region, here’s the best three-day itinerary to make the most out of your time, and not only enjoy the best beaches in Tropea, but also get a taste of other things to do in Tropea as well.
Day 1 – Explore Tropea and Capo Vaticano
On you first day in Tropea, we suggest that you explore downtown Tropea, take a walk around the historical part of town, and climb up to the Santuario di Santa Maria dell’Isola di Tropea to enjoy some breath-taking views.
After that, you can drive to the lighthouse at Capo Vaticano for one of the best panoramas in all of Calabria. There’s a little café close to the lighthouse, where you can stop for some coffee or drinks.
We suggest that you are back in Tropea in time for sunset, which we think is best enjoyed right from Tropea’s main beach, our favourite sunset spot!
There are several restaurants from where you can choose to have your dinner in Tropea – some Fileja with Nduja or a pizza with Tropea’s red onions will go down a treat! Fish restaurants are plentiful too!
Day 2 – Visit other villages on the coast
On your second day in Tropea, we suggest you visit other towns and villages along the Coast of the Gods. We went first to Nicotera and then to Pizzo, followed by Chiesetta di Piedigrotta and Briatico. We were back in Tropea in time for an aperitivo and a lovely fish dinner.
If you’re tight on time, you should skip Nicotera, which is located west of Tropea, whilst the other villages are to the east side.
Day 3 – Spend time on the best beaches in Tropea
To really enjoy the best beaches in Tropea, we recommend that you spend one full day at the beach.
We loved the beaches of Santa Maria and Stromboli, but Tropea’s main beach is clearly the star beach of all the beaches in Tropea. Grotticelle is a pretty good option too, especially if you would like to rent boats or take part in some water activities.
If you’re staying longer in the Tropea region, be sure to take a day trip down to Scilla (unless you will be visiting later on, on your way down south). Although Scilla can be easily visited in half a day, lingering around on some sea side terrace, enjoying fresh fish and a glass of wine whilst savouring la dolce vita can take up the best part of an afternoon!
Where to stay in Tropea
Hotel Virgilio – this centrally-located hotel offers great value for money rooms in the centre of Tropea. Staff are welcoming, making it one of the best budget options in Tropea! Book Hotel Virgilio or check the latest prices here.
Salva House – this guesthouse located a few minutes’ walk away from centre of Tropea, offers comfortable private rooms at a very affordable price. Book Salva House or check the latest prices here.
Aether Suites Tropea – the beautiful rooms are just a short walk from the centre of Tropea. The rooms are sparkling clean and the property is well taken care of. Book Aether Suites Tropea or check the latest prices here.
Tropea Boutique Hotel – if you’re looking for sea views, this is the place to stay at! The hotel boasts fantastic sea and sunset views from the lovely terraces. Book Tropea Boutique Hotel or check the latest prices here.
Villa Paola – this converted 16th century convent with fantastic views and a lovely pool is the ultimate place to stay in Tropea is you’re looking for something upmarket. Book Villa Paola or check the latest prices here.
Hotel Rocca Della Sena – this renovated villa, offers a hot tub and a garden and has a private stairway connecting the property directly to the beach. Book Hotel Rocca Della Sena or check the latest prices here.
What to eat in Tropea
If you love food as much as we do, you will be delighted to know that the food in Tropea is first-rate whilst being very affordable.
Here’s a list of foods we recommend you try during your trip to Tropea and the surrounding region, although many dishes can be found in the rest of Calabria too!
Nduja is a form of spreadable ‘sausage’ made from different pig parts (essentially the scraps) to which chilis and spices are added, resulting in a spicy, flavoursome condiment which is a staple in all of Calabria. If you can’t eat spicy food, you won’t be much of a fan of Nduja, but if you enjoy fiery, spicy flavours, you’ll keep ordering it at every meal!
Most little meat shops or charcuterie shops in Calabria stock Nduja, cheese and fresh bread, so getting a fresh panino with Nduja to go, makes for a quick and affordable lunch!
The Red Onions of Tropea
This is one ingredient that is exclusive to Tropea and has in fact been given a protected DOC status. We think that the incredibly sweet onions are to die for, and can be added in various dishes such as salads, sandwiches, pizza and pasta. You will also find several preserves and marmalades, incorporating the sweet red onion, which go down a treat when spread on crostini or accompanying a slab of cheese!
Tropea is packed with pizza restaurants, but the best things about the pizza in Tropea, is the addition of local ingredients such as the red onions of Tropea and Nduja. In fact, the best pizza I had during all our time in Calabria, was exactly that – mozzarella, Nduja and the sweet Tropea red onions.
Trust me, if you enjoy a mildly spicy pizza, be sure to look for a place serving this variant! We recommend Quei Bravi Ragazzi restaurant.
Fileja with Nduja
I developed a love affair with Nduja the moment I tasted it, but this is one dish you HAVE to try in Tropea. Fileja is the typical Calabrian pasta hand-rolled to resemble a long screw. You can find different-flavoured Fileja pasta such as the reddish-orange one to which peperoncino has been added, however plain fileja with an Nduja sauce (usually incorporating the spicy Nduja with sweet cherry tomatoes and olive oil), tops all other dishes!
I first tried Fileja with Nduja at That’s Amore restaurant and can’t recommend it enough.
Home to several fishing villages along its never-ending coastline, and a healthy fishing industry, it is little wonder that fresh fish and seafood is widely available in Calabria, especially in its coastal areas. Swordfish is probably the most popular fish (at least during the period we visited) and is very widely available, but there’s lots of variety, and if you’re a fish-lover, you are sure to be pleased with all the choice!
Swordfish panino in Scilla
Swordish is one of the more popular fish in Calabria, and Scilla (the Chianalea area) is one of the best places to enjoy it, a fishing village where swordfish is literally the village motif.
Although you will find swordfish served in many ways, the local eateries in Scilla are known for serving a great swordfish panino (panino pescespada) to which Tropea onions are sometimes added. A simple meal topped off with a wonderful coastal view is all you need sometimes!
Southern Italy is known for its granitas and Calabria is no exception! If you’ve never had granitas, they are similar to sorbets, but many variants are slushy and can be drunk with a straw.
You will find many gelato shops serving granita all over Calabria, and we think that the lemon-flavoured and coffee-flavoured ones are a particularly tasty treat, perfect for cooling down in the hot summer weather!
Tartufo in Pizzo
One of Italy’s greatest creations, is exclusively found in Pizzo, just a short drive away from Tropea. Tartufo is essentially a blend of ice cream with a filling shaped into a ball and covered with different ingredients such as chocolate or pistachio, depending on the flavour of your choice.
There’s a ‘secret’ to making Tartufo which some gelaterias in Pizzo have mastered. The ice-cream must be made without additives, and centre needs to remain liquid even when frozen. The decadent dessert has gained a protected status, meaning that it can only be made in Pizzo. Just another good reason to visit!
If you’re looking for lovely coastal views, brilliant beaches and good food, we highly recommend that you include Tropea in Calabria on your Italy itinerary!