Tropea – taking it easy in Calabria

This was in June 2022, my first foreign trip after Covid decided to keep us all home for a couple of years. I had been going on holiday to Italy annually for ten years. I love the place, the culture and the language. Cerco di fare uno sforza per parlare italiano ogni volta che posso. (I try to make an effort to speak Italian whenever it is possible). I don’t always get it right – far from it – but I get great pleasure trying to speak to Italians in their own language. I think I began to understand Italy a whole lot more after I managed to hold conversations about more things than ‘excuse me where is the station?’ ‘a beer, please’ or ‘can I have the bill?’ One day, I hope to understand everything Italians say to me.

So I missed the place during the pandemic and was impatient to return to this wonderful country at the first opportunity. Apart from the culture, the people, the landscape and the language, I feel so much better in the Italian sunshine. The coffee tastes better there too.

So, in June 2022, I packed my bags with hot weather clothes, a Panama hat, and my kindle loaded with Italian fiction, and made the journey to Tropea, in Calabria in Southern Italy, determined to relax and absorb Italy’s healing vibes.

With Andrea a waiter at the Bar Veneto

Tropea is a small town by the sea in a part of the Italian south that hasn’t been so over-run as some of the other more famous Italian seaside resorts. Consequently perhaps, amiability, humour and relaxed hospitality are still important here, where a favourite restaurant or bar can soon become home.

I know I’m sounding like a brainless hedonist, maybe that’s who I am. In all honesty, it’s one of the many attractions of coming to Italy every summer. Forgive me, everyone, for I have sinned. No, it’s not a sin to appreciate the good things about the world, it’s a duty, I believe.

Tropea isn’t Rome or Naples, but it has most of the essentials for a quintessentially Italian experience.

Tropea is a beautiful place, one of the most beautiful in Italy, according to its award as one of I Borghi più belli d’Italia (‘The most beautiful villages of Italy’). The town itself sits on the cliff tops over-looking the Gulf of Saint Euphemia, part of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

There were a number of concerts here while I was in Tropea, at the medieval Auditorium Santa Chiara – a recital of operatic arias by the Calabrian composer, Francesco Cilea (1866 – 1950), performed by the sumptuously voiced soprano Lenny Lorenzani with pianist David Boldrini, a part of the Tropea Summer Music Festival

There was also a saxophone quintet concert with the Argentinian saxophonist and composer, Javier Girotto. (Javier Girotto – who played a variety of saxophones with Mattia Catarinozzi – soprano sax Alfredo Santoloci – alto sax – Maurizio Schifitto – tenor sax and Giovanni De Luca – baritone sax)

There’s a legend that Tropea was founded by Hercules, no less, when he was returning home to Greece after completing his ‘twelve labours’ – I don’t expect to rival his super-human strength, as in the Farnese Hercules that I saw in Naples in 2020…

…but I do my best to keep as fit and as strong as I can – even when I’m on holiday. The apartment in Tropea had a large terrace, over-looking the town and the bay and, every morning, it became my own private gym for exercises suggested by Gyles Abbott, my personal trainer, and my kung-fu and taichi practise as drummed into me by Kungfu instructor supreme, my friend Neil Johnson.

There was even a handy impromptu pull-arm bar in the bedroom.

At night, the terrace took on a considerably more relaxed mood, a look-out post to watch the festivities below accompanied by a vigilant moon, a glass of wine and a cooling breeze from the Tyrrhenian sea.

It wasn’t all about sun, sea and sand, but I have to confess, after two years away, I felt like Adam and Eve might have felt if they had been invited back to the Garden of Eden.

This blog, with its obligatory Tropea sunset, brings to an end my record of my Italian holidays between 2017 and 2022 – in Puglia, on the Amalfi Coast, in Naples, Sorrento and Milan. I planned to write them at the time but managed to neglect doing so while my website was being remastered. My apologies to those readers who missed the fact that these were separate past trips….if only I could have done this just now as a grand tour as some of you imagined.

I have mentioned Enrico Caruso a lot in these posts, so it seems right to finish them with his voice. In 1902, when this recording was made, Enrico Caruso had just created the role in Maurizio in Calabrian-born Francesco Cilea’s most famous opera, Adriana Lecouvreur at the Teatro Lirico in Milan (1902). Here is Caruso fresh from one of his early triumphs.

Francesco Cilea (1866 – 1950)

A reminder too of Francesco Cilea, whose operas are not performed as much as they deserve.

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