By Antonio Malara
Recently I noticed how in my blog I wrote many travel posts of places in southern Italy, in particular on regions such as Sicily and Puglia. I practically published posts from all regions of southern Italy except my region; Calabria. It is not that there are no beautiful places here, but probably given the ambivalence of feelings I have for my region, I have never undertaken to tell about some Calabrian places. In recent years, many Italian villages or seaside towns have become popular thanks, or through fault, to social networks such as Instagram, especially the most spectacular ones. In this way, people who travel only to publish the “particular” photo, wildly seek places with scenic beauty such as Tropea. For us this unique town, located on a rock overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and a Caribbean beach with crystal clear water, has always been a reference of beauty and particularity. A little antagonist of Taormina, which, however, does not have the exclusivity of large hotels and designer shops. In a certain sense Tropea has always been for us the Taormina of the people, a place where we went to spend one of the many popular holidays that our Italy is full of and that we “characters” from southern Italy have always celebrated by stuffing ourselves with traditional food in places out of town. Although Tropea is about an hour and a half from my city, in the years of my childhood it was normal to go and spend one of these days in the name of the group, food and entertainment.
Today when I see these girls in failed modeling poses, with the background that clearly identifies Tropea, it makes me laugh. The total lack of history and traditions, a shot made possible by a modern smartphone with the sole purpose of having "likes" from a flood of strangers. Fortunately, once immersed in the climate of these centers, people are also able to appreciate the particular things that the villages offer, starting with their unique urban planning. In this post, I want to talk about the last time I was in Tropea, that is in the summer of 2020, on that occasion I spent a whole day there with my sister and one of her friends who came from northern Italy. She too had recently discovered Tropea, and was very curious to visit the town. Unfortunately, in Calabria still today there is no efficient public transport, this means that even to reach Tropea you have to use the car. It doesn't matter which direction you come from, but the last 25 km to get to Tropea are an ordeal! Although the coast is beautiful and the road overlooks it, almost the entire route is covered from the sea side by reed trees. Not only is the view obstructed but the road conditions are always in poor condition, with the asphalt being patched up repeatedly, in addition to this there are few and obsolete parking areas.
The agony of the road is rewarded by the natural beauty of the landscape and the road that leads to the beach of Tropea ends in a beautiful and large pine forest. A parking lot was created all around this area, we left the car there and headed towards the sea which was just a step away. It was shortly after 1 PM and the beach was totally occupied by bathers. A little pretentiously, we started looking for a “lido” but we couldn't find a spot anywhere. The incredible thing was that every inch of the beach was occupied by people, it was impossible to stop even on the free beach. On the one hand, the scenery was characteristic due to the natural colors of the beach and the water, in contrast with the umbrellas and towels that were of all possible colors. The type of people there was of all kinds, there were local and then tourists mainly from southern Italy. To be honest, if from an aesthetic point of view the beach was beautiful to look at, from a practical point of view it was hell. We had to walk all over the beach and monitor when someone was leaving. Finally, after almost an hour, we literally catapulted ourselves onto a small group of people who were leaving the beach. We arranged the sheets that practically made up almost one with those of other people. The precarious condition of the place on the beach was rewarded by swimming in the water. The crystalline sea that faded from turquoise to blue was warm and it was a pleasure to be inside the water. We also spent the time taking pictures and the colors of them were just gorgeous. We stayed on the beach until 3 PM then we left the area reluctantly but we were all languishing and headed south where there were the restaurants.
Also for the restaurant we had to work hard to find a free table, after half an hour we found a place on a beach and this time too the wait was rewarded by the view and not only that. The covered terrace overlooked the sea from a higher perspective than the beach. In the distance we could also see the volcanic island of Stromboli, a place that I particularly love. The cuisine was as delicious as the panoramic view, I got a plate of spaghetti with mussels and clams which were exquisite. During lunch, I felt like in the moments when I’m on vacation like in one of the places in Spain, for a moment I had that feeling of freedom and lightheartedness.
Lunch was very slow and only at around 5:30 PM we moved to one of the steps leading to the upper part of the city. This was the staircase that overlooked the harbor area and I honestly believe that this was the first time I used those stairs. My impression of the staircase was confirmed immediately after arriving at the top, in fact there was a large uninhabited building in bad condition that I did not remember. With its geometric shapes, this building had an incredible charm despite its poor condition and the area in which it stood had a breathtaking view of the sea. We wandered through the streets of the historic center and shortly after we arrived at one of the most popular places in Tropea, namely "L’affaccio del Corso". This is one of the viewpoints of the city and perhaps because in the last I somatized something seeing it as a child, this place has always disturbed me. The viewpoint was actually a large balcony that ends downhill on a large classic railing overlooking the sea. Surely suggestive especially for those who see it for the first time, the view from up there is beautiful. However, when there are many tourists, the balcony becomes dangerous in my opinion. Despite this, we spent a lot of time there to take pictures and enjoy the colorful panorama already seen in the morning but from a high perspective.
After doing some shopping in the narrow streets, we headed to the other side of the city, more precisely to the "Belvedere Piazza del Cannone". Here too there are two distinct terraces where you can enjoy a beautiful view. From both vantage points there is the best view of "Santuario di Santa Maria dell’isola di Tropea", located in the middle of the small round-shaped mountain surrounded by water. There we enjoyed an ice cream and then slowly we walked the way in reverse. At around 6:30 PM even though it was already a time to go home, we decided that the right thing to beat the heat was to go back to the beach. So we did, we jumped back into the sea which at that time was no longer crowded. Our idea was spot on because by doing so we refreshed ourselves and faced the long return journey feeling fresher.
I think my last time in Tropea before this day was in May 2016, a very different period where above all the beach was completely deserted. The day spent with my sister and her friend was different. As I said before, I felt like a tourist and a guide at the same time and I lived the day in a different mood, seeing the city in a different way. This was a nice feeling, something I'd like to try again on a future trip to Tropea. Unfortunately, I have the feeling that if I go back next year or in fifteen years, those last 25 km will not be the same, but even in worse conditions.
Pictures: Antonio Malara
Camera: Fujifilm XT-20