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Today we welcomed our 15 eager travelers to Calabria – picking everyone up at the airport and train station and transporting them south to the 20130217_205359town of Tropea.  The first view of this seaside town perched on a cliff is sure to impress!  The town itself is quite small and one of the prettiest in Calabria.  The cobbled streets are lined with old buildings made from golden stone and at various points you find yourself looking down at the sea below, accessed by windy roads or some 200 steps. On a clear day you can easily see the volcanic island of Stromboli from the waterfront promenade!

20130217_210924After an afternoon siesta to let everyone settle in, we walked down the cobbled streets to introduce everyone to a secret gem hidden amongst the winding alleys.  If you didn’t have a map, all you would have to do is follow your nose!  This tiny shop of Francesco’s –  barely big enough to squeeze in our group – has such an amazing aroma that you can smell it all the way out on the street!  Carrying typical products like baskets full of dried pepperoncino powder and oregano; shelves stacked high with jars upon jars of things we want to stash in our suitcase to take home – Tropean onions in olive oil, peperoncino jam, olive pate’, onion marmalade – and then there are the cured meats.  Sciachatta, capocollo, and the famed ‘nduja – Francesco is happy to share all of it with us.

Our first dinner on the trip is always one where we try to introduce our group to the simple but amazing dishes and tastes that they can expect in20130217_224554 this region.  And tonight’s meal did just that!  Just meters from the Tyrrhenian Sea, the seafood doesn’t get any fresher!  The famous Tropean red onion was prevalent throughout – including our favorite pesce spada (swordfish) covered with these delicious sweet onions.

And what evening in Italy wouldn’t be complete without a rock band performing Janis Joplin, Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival in the square?  What a way to start off what is sure to be a memorable trip!