Few cities in Italy can vaunt the story of Tropea. Today a visit to Tropea means being suspended in time, held between ancient history and modern life.
Legend tells that the founder of the city was Hercules when, on his return from the Columns of Hercules (Spain), he stooped off on the coast of South Italy. Tombs from the Magna Graecia period have been excavated in the surrounding areas.
The story of Tropea began in ancient Roman times when Sesto Pompeo
Defeated Cesare Ottaviano: the Romans had built a commercial port south of Tropea near the present-day village of Santa Domenica, at Formicoli (a place name that derives from Foro di Ercole), which is mentioned by Plinio and Strabone.
The characteristic position on a high terrace above the sea gave Tropea an important role both in Roman times (proved by the ancient granite quarry just 2 km from Tropea in the village of Parghelia) and in Byzantine times. There are many remains from the Byzantine period , such as the church on the island or the town walls (known as Bellisario’s walls). After a long siege, the Normans took the town from the Byzantines and under their dominion the town prospered. Tropea continued to prosper under the Aragonese dominion.
In 2016, on 4th February, the UNESCO Club Tropea Coast of the Gods was founded.
The town lies on a high sandstone cliff promontory overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea on the west coast of Calabria in the province of Vibo Valentia. The historical town centre is of considerable interest to visitors. There are many mansions which once belonged to noble families dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Some of these cling to the cliff face directly above the beaches. The portals of the mansions are interesting with their family emblazons. Some of the houses have enormous cisterns which were excavated in the rock where grain from nearby Monte Poro was stored before being loaded onto ships anchored below through terracotta pipes. The symbol of the town is the Sanctuary Church of Saint Mary of the Island which is built on a large stack in front of the little town.
The cathedral, built in 1100 in Romanesque style and dedicated to Our Holy Lady Mary of Romania is of great interest. The painting of Our Lady of Romania, patron and protector of the town, can be found here. Of further interest is the Convent of Pity, built in 1639. Next to the cathedral is the Diocesan Museum, in the one-time bishopric, with displays of historical gold and silver wares, paintings, frescoes, statues, furnishings and artefacts from churches in the town as well as a display of findings from prehistoric times from a number of archaeological digs.
Aerial photography by Giuseppe Rizzo