I felt that typical Italian countryside atmosphere already arriving to the airport – what a crazy emotional palette! And so much more was waiting for me there! Nothing to compare with visiting major Italian cities like Rome or Milano. And I said to myself: ‘This is REAL Italy!’ 🙂 and it was!
Go and buy those tickets to Lamezia! And get ready for the perfect holidays by using my tips from the sections below (actually a very hard-earned information after weeks of research & emails!)
Why Tropea? Why Lamezia? Why Calabria?
I was looking for flights to Italy from Bucharest to take my sister on holidays and combine her seaside break with my ‘authenticity research’. Spotted a destination which I’ve never met before – Lamezia. Checked out the region – all we needed was seaside and the rest (unique and local things to do) I can find with a detailed research everywhere!
Now checking the flights to Lamezia Terme I understand why the majority of tourists were from Germany 🙂 Surprisingly, it costs less to fly to Lamezia from Germany, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Belgium, Spain and UK than from Italy internally!
However my confidence in being able to find unique activities in every single point of the globe encountered high obstacles. After days of research I knew only about some cooking classes and sailing trips. Needless to say that at the end I found what I was looking for: utterly distinctive experiences meeting all your (and my!) expectations.
Have a look at my final itinerary and then check out all the other local activities in Tropea. I would need to stay here for a couple of months to try them all!
My trip to Tropea:
Getting from the airport– from 1h to 3h – public transport (read more in Lamezia Terme airport. How to get to Tropea? section) – 5,7 EUR
Accommodation– double room, Hotel La Perla (read more in Where to stay in Tropea? Accommodation in Tropea & Calabria section) – 208 EUR + 21 EUR city tax /7 nights/2 people
Restaurants, diners, 2 people (read more about it in Where to eat in Tropea section):
Il Vecchio Granaio (Tropea) – 47 EUR; 28 EUR
La Cantina Del Giudice (Tropea) – 40 EUR
Il Normanno (Tropea) – 29,5 EUR
La Lamia (Tropea) – 42 EUR
Pizzeria Da Giovanni (Stromboli) – 32 EUR
Local activities, workshops, trips, my own schedule:
Day 1: Rubber boat trip – Coast to Coast Transfer – Costa degli Dei sightseeing – 25 EUR
Day 2: Horse riding walk in olive groves – 45 EUR
Day 3: Eolian Islands – Vulcano, Lipari and Stromboli – day trip – 45 EUR + 5 EUR tax
Day 4: Stromboli by Night – 35 EUR + 5 EUR tax
Day 5: Free day! Beach, sunshine and prosecco 🙂 – the best description and location of beaches can be found here. I would really recommend going to Grotta del Palombaro
Day 6: Cooking class – Fileja preparation at Torre Galli – 50 EUR + 10 EUR transfer
The first trip we booked through CST Tropea was with Shark Bay company and the tour was called ‘Coast to Coast’. I couldn’t get the idea even though it had a long explanation on the website and also Kerstin explained in her email (see What to do in Tropea | Aeolian Islands). So in fact it was a sailing trip on a rubber boat without stops – you sail along Costa degli Dei, see the picturesque rocks, the wonderland azure blue sea, turn back after Cabo Vaticano and stop for half an hour for swimming on its most beautiful beach – Grotticelle.
We couldn’t swim – it was too cold for us, since the trip was on our first day and again, we didn’t take anything to cover us from the wind. More Nordic passengers happily swam. The crew offered white wine after getting back on the boat.
Price & book:
Coast to Coast transfer – 25 EUR/person
Horse riding walking tour through forests, meadows, olive groves, some appetizers & wine with the host family on their terrace – this was the most exciting activity I joined in Tropea! I would do it daily 🙂 Imagine yourself on a horseback riding under blooming olive trees (even if you never did it like my sister, you can manage – Filipe and his son Nunzio will give you the most human-friendly horse). Have you ever smelled the olive flowers scent? From now on, I love it even more than jasmine!
You’ll see landscapes which are the real Italy for me – green, spacious, under bright blue sky and among oranges peeking out from the leaves. If I was about to choose one activity, it would be this one! You can book it with CST Tropea or directly with Filipe (they are a very responsive family!) The name of the rancho is Cavallieri delle due Sicilie, located in Francica.
Price & book:
Horse riding walk in olive groves – 45 EUR/person
Day 3 & Day 4
I have to start from my favourite company – Savadori Navigazione. We booked a boat trip called Isole Eolie – Vulcano, Lipari e Stromboli through CST Tropea. These are the volcanic islands in the Tyhrrenian sea between Calabria and Sicily, belonging already to Sicily. One of the islands – Stromboli – is active volcano, Lipari – is the biggest island with descent infrastructure and various trips to minor islands (Panarea and Salina, and also to Sicily – Etna etc.). Vulcano – is the smallest out of the three islands, but it has a lovely mud beach for your revitalization.
The price of the sailing trip was 45 EUR/person, exactly the same as if you buy it in the port directly (we booked ours at CST Tropea – see What to do in Tropea | Aeolian Islands at How to book activities in Tropea). It was a whole day trip with boarding at 7:30 AM. Additionally you pay the UNESCO tax for visiting the islands – 2,5 EUR/person or 5 EUR/person from June to September.
Really lovely crew – all of them had very distinctive personalities, and the captain was incredibly charismatic. I saw him hugging the boarding bridge while staying at the lower deck area and after that, I officially state: wherever you are going on holidays, if there is a sea nearby you CAN make it a very special trip! And I don’t mean laying on the beach or swimming five meters far from the coast. Go further! See people in love with the deep blue waves, and try to fall in love as well.
We’ve visited Vulcano as our first stop. It’s a tiny island with a volcanic muddy beach where you should definitely take a mud bath, unless you have high scent sensitivity as I do (it smells so ….). The entrance to the muddy beach costs 3 EUR/person, +1 EUR for the shower afterwards (I guess you can’t avoid it!), and if you stay on Vulcano more than a day there are very attractively priced entrance passes.
If your stay is longer than mine, you can also find black sanded beaches which are adorable!
And of course, there are some special shops on this islet, read more about it in Shopping in Tropea. What to buy in Tropea
After having a glass of prosecco and an ice-cream, we got back on board.
Next stop was Lipari – the biggest island, and there is a lot to see! We decided to leave the group of our co-passengers and get lost. If you turn right from the port you’ll find an old cathedral with a quiet park nearby – pine trees, seagulls and an overlook on the sea, remembering my Spanish days I called it ‘mirador’.
We continued through the centre, met a group of local parents and children coming from their first holy communion and decided to follow them. We went through dark arcades and ended up in front of the municipality building. They entered a restaurant which was booked for all the families; so losing the group of locals, we found two ways to get down to the sea. The one on the right was closed with a comment ‘private entrance’, but the route on the left was a free to go one. Italian cats greeting us (or escaping in panic), pleasant shadow of the old trees along the way and, of course, stairs! Lots of them! But what a place we found! No comments, just photos to describe only the view, but far not the whole atmosphere.
My sister was bored, she’s not a person to philosophically sit on an empty beach, so we left. On our way upstairs I noticed a guy who was sitting along the stairs on the fence, watching us taking photos of each other. Italian bastard, had fun for free! He gratefully waved us when we left 🙂 Molto gentile!
I kept trying to get lost (poor sis, she always asks to go where people do – sorry, not with me!). Most of the tiny streets are curved and it feels like they’ll bring you to a dead end, but no! They’ll bring you to another turnaround 🙂 And you can endlessly continue this way just like in a labyrinth game.
Being tired of sun and heavy begs (I did some shopping on the previous island), we went to have some siesta on the central street in Ciuri Ciuri (read about it in the Where to eat in Tropea | Aeolian Islands). The owner’s dog was entertaining us and then a shop in front of it attracted me by its local delicacies offerings.
We tried to get back to the port and being a smart blondie I did two things:
I forgot where is the meeting poin
I googled in Italian the port from where all the Eolian Islands ships depart
So we went to a wrong place 🙂 It’s Italy, dear, and if all the boats to Stromboli depart from the same port, why would your boat leave from it as well? Even though it goes to Stromboli 🙂
Despite my sister being positively ensured that this is the correct place, I felt it’s wrong. So we went back to the centre, hoping to meet ‘our’ people, from our boat. On the way to the wrong port we met the guy who was taking photos of me onboard (I was staying at the lower deck with the lifebuoy ring behind me, having my dress of exactly the same colour as the ring – unconsciously entertaining everyone, as always), so I was sure he has to help us out! We met him and the whole group 🙂 But after going where they advised us, I turned right and then left, and then it was completely not what it should be. Luckily an old Italian man brought us to the proper port – Corto Marina.
NB: in case you get lost like us, dial the number on your ticket, so the boat waits until you get there. I completely forgot about this option!
All aboard, we continued to the most magnificent island – Stromboli. Black volcanic beaches, only part of the island is inhabited, the other – is too hot! Indeed, it’s not even firm, but quite soft and your shoes will melt if you step on it. The volcano explosions can be seen almost daily, smaller or bigger, you’ll definitely see one at night. It’s magic alive to watch this island.
However, we had only 1,5 h for it, and my sister trying to go where people do 🙂 In fact, we got stuck in a shop and afterwards had time only for a very good ice-cream (a gelateria you’ll find if going through the main street up to the hills – can’t remember the name), and to lay a bit on black sand:
We went back on board, and sailed an hour and a half to the port of Tropea. In fact, the happiest thing about it all was the sailing part. You can take me anywhere, just sail!
NB: You can order drinks & snacks on board, so no need to carry.
But it’s quite cold and windy on the sundeck area. So take some warm clothes in order to avoid this:
Stromboli by Night
I loved so much the trip, that I couldn’t stay calm the next day. I convinced my sister to go on a nice evening sailing and see the volcano explosions. ‘And the whole day before it we can spend on the beach!’ – I told her. So when it became too hot to stay on the sun, I advised to go to the port and buy the tickets for the evening. For some unclear surprisingly typical Italian reason hey costed us twenty euros less than it would by their official price-list (if you are a pretty girl, everything can happen in Italy). After buying the ticket we were told to go on board 🙂 Imagine two girls just coming from the beach in swimming suits under their summerly-light dresses! Since it was just an hour and half till Stromboli I didn’t expect them to leave earlier than 5 pm. In reality, it was 2:30. I calmed down my sister telling that we will stay on the beach in Stromboli 🙂
So we went! You can read my review of this tour in TripAdvisor
Price & book:
Isole Eolie – from 7:30 am till 7 pm – 45 EUR/person + 2,5 or 5 EUR UNESCO tax
Stromboli by night – from 2:30 pm till 11 pm – 45 EUR/person + 2,5 or 5 EUR UNESCO tax (somehow, we payed 35 EUR)
What were we doing on the 5th day? Sleep, swim & eat 🙂
As I told you earlier (see Where to stay in Tropea? Accommodation in Tropea & Calabria), we attended a cooking class in Torre Galli resort – a 300 years old country house – under Mariella’s guidance. First of all, she did a tour around the resort (before I mentioned I would write about it 🙂 – showed us the old olive oil & wine presses, the garden, terrace, olive & citrus groves. She has an ‘industrial’ (as she called it) kitchen – so you can have a workshop with a large group there, and a cozy home kitchen ‘for herself’ as she said. Of course, we used the small one and enjoyed all the aged stuff there – cupboards, marble sink, traditional Italian household equipment (numerous gas coffee makers, metal pots, wooden spatulas etc). Mariella offered to cook fileja – the typical pasta of Calabria. The good thing about it is that the base for each pasta is the same, only the shape differs from one region to another. And the recipe is:
1 cup of 000 flour
half cup of semolina
Water – as much as the dough asks for
So we mix the flour and semolina, and slowly, teaspoon by teaspoon add the water, whilst working the dough out.
And working it out is the most important part of the process – see photos below 🙂 Mariella’s workman – Mozo (I hope I remembered correctly) helped us with his man power to make the dough perfectly soft. He is from Pakistan and lives in Italy for 3 years, but knows how to position himself in an Italian kitchen!
After the dough is done (you might leave it to rest for 10 min), we roll it in long and narrow strings, then cut half of a thumb large pieces. And now we need the special metal / plastic strings for rolling the dough – you put the string on top of the dough piece, press a bit and roll gently to a pipe shape.
Put the ready ‘pipes’ on a well-floured tray (we omitted it and had to sort it out afterwards – not a pleasure!), after all are done, cooked in boiling water until they all appear on the surface.
As a sauce we heat up some olive oil with fresh tomato paste (made with garlic and basil), add fresh basil, salt, pepper and the prepared pasta.
Serve with ricotta and parmeggiano!
Besides that we cooked some sotte vegetables, fried onions and had some home-made wine.
By the way, the wine was made by the father of the local bakery owners we went to 🙂
I really enjoyed meeting the two brothers, born in USA, relocated back to Italy long years ago, running this bakery. A huge wood stove and lots of fresh, hot bread! Thanks Mariella for introducing us!
The price for the cooking class was 50 EUR/person + 10 EUR/person transfer from & to Tropea. If you book the activity with Mariella directly she won’t charge you for the transfer 😉
Price & book:
Cooking class: Fileja preparation at Torre Galli – 50 EUR + 10 EUR transfer
And let me finish with some foodie photos to tease you a bit more 😉