One of Tropea’s icons, is a medieval church perched atop a rocky cliff on Italy’s ‘Coast of the Gods,’ boasting outstanding views of Tropea and Tyrrhenian Sea.
Santa Maria dell’Isola, is a Franciscan monastery, a symbol of Tropea in Italy. It is perched high on a rocky promontory and accessible only by a winding flight of steps carved directly into the cliff side. It dominates the view over the sea from Piazza Ercole, the main town square.
Dated from the 4th century AD, the Franciscan monastery has been rebuilt many times. Following the 18th century earthquakes little remain of the original structure. For many years it belonged to the Basilian monks. In 1066, it was donated to the Abbey of Montecassino and is still the property of the Abbey.
Santa Maria dell’Isola is both charming and unexpected. Inside the church is the main altar, with three 18th Century life-sized wooden statues depicting the Holy Family. Around the interior of the church are parts of medieval tombstones and a small rectangular Byzantine tombstone. There are three circles – the middle circle depicting L’Ecce Homo (Jesus bound and crowned with thorns); two outer circles with figures of women; and a depiction of Maestro di Mileto, the 14th-century sculptor.
Visitors can climb up to the roof to admire the panoramic view or wander through the pleasant garden set on the rocks behind the building. The beach below the rock, has been classed among the ten top beaches in Italy.