Sitting high on a chunk of rock jutting out into the sea, this iconic medieval-style monastery is an icon of the town of Tropea.
The medieval Santa Maria dell’Isola Monastery has a dramatic setting on a rocky island connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. Climb up the steps to reach the clifftop church where you’ll find fantastic photo opportunities as well as a small museum.
Note that the monastery may appear much newer than you might expect. A religious structure is said to have stood here since the 4th century. This building, however, is much newer, having been subject to several bouts of rebuilding following damage from earthquakes.
As you make your way across the causeway to the monastery, reflect on how the landscape itself has changed over the centuries. Back when the monastery was first built, it sat on a proper island, though that “island” is now connected to the mainland by a strip of land created by a build-up of silt.
Ascend the steep flight of stairs built into the cliff upon which the monastery stands. Look for local wildlife, such as lizards, as you make your way up the steps.
Once you reach the monastic complex, get out your camera and head for the gardens at the rear of the church. From here, enjoy excellent far-reaching views over the beach and town. On a clear day, it is sometimes possible to see the active Stromboli volcano from the complex.
Enter the church and take a moment to absorb the peaceful atmosphere. The church’s interior, though small, is well maintained and features two religious statues, which are visible behind the altar.
Consider returning to view the monastery at night, when it is attractively lit. View it from a distance from the main town square of Piazza Ercole, looking northwest to see the glowing building.
Entry to Santa Maria dell’Isola Monastery is free but a small fee is charged for access to the rooftop and the garden, both of which have sensational viewpoints. The monastery is open year-round although hours change depending on the season. Note that the church can only be accessed via a winding and steep staircase, which may pose problems for less mobile visitors. Be sure to wear sturdy, comfortable shoes.