We awoke to a cloudless blue sky, the waves of the Tyrrhenian Sea washing gently against the shore and were amazed at the sight before us. We were about three hundred foot above the roadway, set into a sheer cliff. Across the water, a little hazy at the early hour, was Stromboli one of the many active volcanos in Italy. Her last eruption was in 2003 and we hoped that she would put on a show for us!
Fishermen were already on the water eagerly after the catch of the day. From our “bedroom” door I could see Iosla del Maria perched on a promontory and to the south a beach that needed exploring.
We had no supplies so Peter went to see what was open and what he could scavenge to get us through till we were able to explore this delightful town. He soon returned laden with fresh bread, butter, cheese, coffee, milk and marmalade, enough to start the day. Firstly, to stock the larder. I was amazed! These beautiful people of Tropea spoke little English – and neither did they need to – and we only knew the basics of hello, goodbye etc. We easily made our purchases of fish, pasta, vino, fresh fruit and some vegetables along with some basic items like toilet rolls and clothes washing detergent. Sign language is a wonderful thing! Back to the apartment of a coffee then off again. We made our way along the cliff top, meandering in and out of tiny alley ways, admiring the architecture, wondering still how on earth this place was built. Some buildings we saw dated from the 1800’s but I knew others were much, much older. Every now and then we came across a break in the buildings, a look out to the stunning blue of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Stromboli had disappeared into the mist. We came to some steps that took us down the three hundred or so feet of the cliff face to the road and sea below. We wandered carefree, firstly along the roadway,then along the beach itself. It was a magnificent day, only around 18 degrees Celsius, but beautifully warm under the azure blue sky. There were people fishing along the shore and others soaking up the very late summer sun. At the end of our stretch of beach, Mare Grande, steps took us back up to the roadway to the Chiese della Sanita dating from 1883. The ringing of the church bells all over the town seemed to indicate that it was noon and time for the shops to close for afternoon siesta.
Back once again to our apartment where we hoed into the delicious fresh food we had bought earlier, a cup of coffee on the balcony and soon we too were soaking up the wonderful late summer sunshine. I felt like to could say there forever!
As we continued to bask in the sun, three hundred foot below in the car park a group of men arrived. First two, who fossicked in the bushes and brought out a white plastic picnic table. Then another, and another, each in turn ducking behind the bushes to bring out chairs. A card game had begun! Soon another car arrived, and a further man wandered from who knew where till there were at least ten around the tiny table. Slapping down the cards with gusto, their voices drifted up to us on the balcony above. We watched for a while, enjoying our “English Siesta” then set off once again.
The town was shut up as tight as a drum, almost ghostlike as families were enjoying their siesta time together – a tradition long endured due to the fierceness of the mid-day sun. We worked our way back to the Old City and needing to purchase olive oil and more of the delicious local cheese, we stopped at the only open establishment. That morning when we got our initial supplies it was tended by the man of the family, this afternoon by the two women sitting in the cool darkness but ready to sell the whole contents of the shop! We had not been into one shop that first day and returned with just the one item we intended to purchase!
We then explored the other side of the town and found more alley ways and interesting architecture. In and out of the tiny streets we found the Duomo, a magnificent building which we would have to investigate on another day as there was a funeral in progress. Back, past our apartment to Largo Viletta, where we sat with many of the townsfolk to watch the sun set over Sicily in the South. The card game was still in full swing and there were shouts from above to the men below, words of encouragement no doubt. Although only 5 o’clock it was beginning to get quite cold, so we ventured back to our lodgings for vino on the balcony. Yes, the card game was still going, now expanded to two tables and some twenty four or so men. As it darkened further and no doubt became quite chilled they started to drift back to their homes, chairs and tables flung back behind the bushes awaiting another game! Our first day in Tropea had been wonderfully amazing.