Piazza Ercole, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the Tre Fontane monument and the Cathedral
Piazza Ercole was built in the late nineteenth century: it is the heart of the town of Tropea. It is called after the city’s ancient name of “Portus Herculis”. It is possible to admire the time-honoured Sedile dei Nobili or Seat of Nobles, an eighteenth-century palace with a granite façade and the coat of arms of the Seat. From the square, head down Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the main street, which is full of venues and little shops selling traditional Calabrian produce. The street ends at a panoramic terrace; to the left is the cliff of Santa Maria dell’Isola, whilst to the right is the cliff of San Leonardo. Half-way along the Corso is Largo Mercato, where skilled local craftsmen built the granite monument of Tre Fontane or Three Fountains, with shell-shaped pools and inlays of Carrara marble.
The Cathedral of Tropea is of Norman origins, and has a basilica layout with three naves. It was renovated during the Twenties, when it was restored to its earlier appearance. Today, it is named after the Most Holy Virgin Mary of Romania, who is also the town’s patron saint.
Inside the Cathedral is a beautiful painting portraying the Saint, in all probability the work of one of Giotto’s pupils during the thirteenth century. There is also a black crucifix from France, dating back to the seventeenth century and the marble statues of the Madonna della Libertà (Madonna of Liberty) and the Madonna del Popolo (Madonna of the People).
Santa Maria dell’Isola
Santa Maria dell’Isola is a large cliff which has become the best-known symbol of Calabria. In the past it was linked to dry land via a flyover. Given its isolated position, it has always been a draw for those wishing to experience contemplation and solitude and a church and a convent were built at its furthest end, almost certainly in medieval times. Over the course of the centuries the church suffered considerable damage from invasions and earthquakes. As a result, its appearance now is very different to how it looked originally. Today it is a place of pilgrimage during the months of August and September.
Excursions to the Aeolian Islands
Organised mini-cruises departing from the port of Tropea
Many organised mini-cruises set out from the port of Tropea for the archipelago of the seven Aeolian Islands, in particular Stromboli, which is very near to Calabria’s coastline. These day-trips allow visitors to see the most beautiful spots, swim in crystal-clear water, visit monuments, enjoy the local food and wine and buy traditional produce and souvenirs in a short space of time. The most popular tour explores no less than three islands: Vulcano for its beaches and sulphurous mud, Lipari for its museums, food and wine, and lastly Stromboli to see the infamous “Sciara di Fuoco”, which means “stream of fire”.