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Photo of the Week - Heart of Tropea (part 1)

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

One plane and a rental car drive through the mountains later, I arrived in Tropea. I had no idea what I was in for…this was my first time at the bottom of Italy, it was a long long quarantine, and I was definitely ready for the beach. It was late when I arrived, the sun was already down, but I could still smell the sea. How beautiful…I thought as I got out of the car. I checked into my hotel and I found fresco paintings on the wall and rose petals on the bed. “Even while I’m single I still receive romantic gestures,” I said to my dork self as I giggle…”Treat yourself!” All of this conversation being completely out loud of course. I openly speak to myself on the regular. Sometimes I’m the only English I hear for days.

Ok then….what to do…..what to do?...

I rinsed my body off in the shower and put on a dress. My hotel was located at the main square of the city. I walked out the door and was met by tons of people. All seemed to be locals. There style was a little different, kind of beachy but they seemed normal.

Anyway…Where is the water?

I turned right and started walking. This was their historical center. Small shops in refurbished old buildings. Tiny streets branching off of the main. Streets made of stones, big uneven stones. Church here, church there and then the road stopped. The street had led me to a wall, a wall I could see over mind you, so I walked up to it and there it was….the coast. I rested my elbows and took a look, there were lights down by the beach, some people were still there. Waves were visible washing along the shore.

“I can’t wait until tomorrow.”

I looked to the left and there was a giant rock coming out of the beach. There was a building on top of it,

“probably should find out what that is…”

I looked down and realized where I was, to the left and right of me the buildings ended at a point that went straight down. Like straight down. The buildings were basically extensions of the cliffside. I leaned over a little bit farther and heard a voice….

“Are you here by yourself?”

I turned around because well I am, is someone speaking to me?...

Who I saw behind me stunned me for a moment…My face met with broad shoulders and a neck. I looked up into these beautiful green eyes, dark hair, dark everything, he was really tan wow…

“Me?” I said also thinking…what do you want Mr. guy?...

He said, “yes, I’m GianLuca.” He reached out his elbow to tap it with mine. Rona is everywhere. I giggled and tapped my elbow to his.

“Hi GianLuca, I’m Shawnee and ummm, Si, I am by myself, is it obvious?” I said with a smile.

“You don’t seem to mix with the people around you…I thought at first you were German, but then I heard you say “wow, that’s cool,” while you were looking down, now I can see you are an American Girl.” I smiled and blushed, looking down at the ground while my face was on fire. Umm people speak to you like this all the time Shawn, why are you so flustered? I asked myself...I don’t know! Shoosh!

“So what did you think was so cool?” he asked me, emphasizing the cooool, which I thought was super cute.

“I like how the structures seem to emerge from the cliff side,” hoping he understood me. I speak Italian but I find it so refreshing to speak English sometimes. I can’t do it with everyone though.

“Well where you are right now, is called the “Coast of the Gods.” Tropea was originally founded by Hercules, did you know?” he said it with this cute smirk, I melted…Stop it Shawn…

“No, I did not.” I responded, as I took his arm and we started to walk.

“Well in reality the buildings were built on the tops of the cliffs in case the water rose, and it really was the best foundation. They create sort of a fortified wall around the city, although rich people lived there. Where the wall breaks you will find cannons. We used to have a lot more but there are some that still remain. There is one over here want to take a look?”

“Sure,” I said as he led me that way.

I shined my light inside the cannon, “Interesting,” I said. He laughed, I smiled and looked at him. We could still see the beach and that giant rock.

“What is that?” I said pointing to the building on the rock, that seemed to be in the center of the beach now that we had switched to the other side.

“It’s an ancient church with a garden. I can take you there tomorrow if it’s ok with you?”

“ummm, ok sure!”

“There is a cave on the other side also that I can show you, would you like to go to the beach tomorrow? I have a membership to a private beach over there.” He pointed to the left. There was a smaller rock. “Right where that huge stone is…”

“Well yea ok, sounds fun.” Probably a lot more fun than going to the beach alone, I said convincingly to myself.

We walked around a little bit, he showed me other cannons and churches, and told me their stories. One in particular, housed two unexploded American bombs from WW2. They were dropped here during a festival that celebrated Jesus’ Mother Mary. Seven of them were dropped in total, none of them exploded. Two landed at the front door of the church on top of the rock, where he will take me tomorrow. Those are the two displayed in the other church.

It’s a little crazy when you are somewhere, learning about war history, (which I love to do by the way) and it was my homeland that was doing the attacking. Yet today here I stand living and befriending the people of Italy.

We walked around for a little while longer, asked each other questions, got a quick bite to eat…I was staaaarving! Then he walked me to the front of the hotel. I offered for him to come have breakfast with me at 8 and then we could head to the beach. When I got into the room, I took another shower and laid down in bed.

Surprisingly, he didn’t hit on me, amazing…Why is he being so nice to me? I guess I’ll find out tomorrow. I shut my eyes and went to sleep.

The next day, I met him on the terrace for breakfast. He was way too good looking. He was wearing blue swim trunks, a white T-shirt, bright orange backpack, his hair was a mess and he was wearing Gucci sunglasses.

Why do you think he looks so good?

He’s in like really relaxed clothes…I took a minute and thought about it. His shoulders…broad shoulders, thick legs, tall, dark, handsome. Those eyes too, ok you stop it!!! Back to reality Shawnee…I said inside my head, but let out a little laugh out loud (embarassing....)

“You ok?” he said with a smile

“Yep” I smiled back “You ready?”

“Sure, let’s go!”

I stood up and he saw what I was wearing. Green wrapped skirt, one thigh exposed, white shirt kind of baggy but short so it showed my tummy.

“Wow…,” he said. “You look amazing..”

I looked down at myself and then responded with a smile, “Lets go.”

We walked to his car, a red Audi A6, white interior. “I thought you said you were a teacher…” I said jokingly.

“I am,” he said “but I do other things too.” He smirked, I smirked and we got in the car and drove off. We turned down a tiny road, parked near the top of a stair case and headed down. I got a beautiful view of the city for the first time.

“Can I take a photo for my insta?” I said stopping in my tracks.

“Of course!” He took my purse from me, without me asking. Well, that was sweet....

I walked over to the ledge and snapped a photo.

“What’s your Instagram?” He asked and we followed each other.

“Wow…your photos are beautiful.”

“Thank you,” I said blushingly.

“How did you get so high?”

“I have a drone, I brought it with me, it’s actually in my backpack. I would like to put it up tonight if I can find a spot. Probably a little bit before sunset. I think where you parked the car would actually be a good spot. I noticed we passed a Carabinieri installation, they’re everywhere unfortunately. It makes it really hard for me to fly here in Italy sometimes.”

The Carabinieri are the Italian military police. Here they roam the streets and it’s a normal, everyday thing. They also do a lot of movement in helicopters at times. You can’t fly drones near military fly zones. So I always have to make sure I am far enough away from them.

We finally arrived at the beach. Perfect spot, umbrella and lounging chairs provided, bar and restaurant up the hill behind us. “Let’s lay here for a little bit,” he said “then I will take you to the cave.”

“Sounds good to me,” as I ripped off my clothes ready for the sunshine.

Beautiful sunshine. I haven’t been to the beach since last year. It feels so good. We were 30 feet away from the water. I shut my eyes and listened to the waves. It wasn’t crowded, because the beach was private of course. I love this.

A little while later, I got up. “I’m going to sit in the water, did you want to go to the cave soon?”

“Sure,” he said, “I’ll come with you now.”

We walked to the water and I sat down. The was was crystal clear. He sat with me, then a moment later he said “ouch!”

My eyes widened and I asked him what?

“The fist are biting me, Ouch!”

“What?!?!” I exclaimed as I brought my knees to my torso. I told him last night that I didn’t like things crawling in the ocean.

“Don’t worry” he said and laughed at me and said, “You’re so cute..”

I shot my face in his direction, smiled and said, “Let’s go to the cave.”

He stood up, grabbed my hand, and pulled me up.

“Thank you..”

“We have to walk down there,” he said pointed to the rock where the church was located.

“Alright andiamo!”

We walked all the way down the beach. It was way crazier than our part of the beach. Lots of people were there.

We finally arrived at the hole in the rock.

“Here” he said as he grabbed my hand. “The rocks are sharp so be careful.”

I slowly began puting my feet in the water and we went in, the opening arrived quick. There was no more beach, just water. I jumped into the sea. The water was up to our shoulders.

“I would dive from that rock when I was a kid,” he said, “the water isn’t so deep anymore, but there is the cave.” He grabbed my hand and pulled me with him to the cave. There was a giant hole on the other side of the rock. You couldn’t see it from the shore at all. We climbed in and sat down.

“We would light fires here at night,” he explained, “You’re not allowed to anymore. I am not so sure if we were allowed to then, but we found out years after we started that you can’t.” We laughed and sat there watching the people, swimming, diving, people in those pedal boats, but these ones had slides on the back of them. Those are cool! We sat there for an hour talking, then silence and staring.

“This is amazing,” I said to him, “thank you for this.”

“I am not done with you yet,” he responded. “Are you hungry?”

“Yea, I could go for a salad.”

He got up and reached out his hand for mine. He pulled me up and we made our way back to our beach. We grabbed our clothes and walked up to the restaurant. When we were done eating, we ordered some espresso for after the meal.

It’s a normal thing here, they call it caffe. They have one after every meal, except breakfast, they usually have a cappuccino for breakfast. We will talk about that another day. While we were waiting for them to come, a girl walked up. She wouldn’t look at me, I wasn’t introduced. He was short with her, really short with her. When she left, he told me it was his ex-girlfriend. I asked him why she wouldn’t look at me, and he corrected me. “She was staring at you this whole time, all the way up until she was standing here. She definitely just came over here to see who I was with.” I didn’t know what to say, I shrugged and then the caffe arrived.

After a little bit of a tour around the city, we both went our separate ways to take showers at home. He picked me up and we went to the church. After climbing a million stairs, we finally reached the top. He knew the girl selling the tickets and we entered for free. He smiled, I rolled my eyes and we laughed.

The church was relatively tiny. It’s name was “Santa Maria dell’Isola” or Saint Mary of the Island in English. It was constructed after a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary washed up on shore there. This occurred during a time when sacred images were being destroyed between the 8th and 9th centuries, in an event called the Byzantine Iconoclasm.

For 200 years the church was occupied by Basilian monks then passed to the Benedictines who own it today.

There wasn’t much to walk through, but the garden was gorgeous. There was this gorgeous view of the cliffside buildings. At the end of the ellipse that formed the top of the island was a giant cross, standing in front of the water. I stared at it and looked out into the sea, this place was peaceful. All the chaos on the beach below, but here there is peace.

I turned around to find GianLuca standing directly behind me. I looked up at him, he touched my chin with his hand.

“You have very beautiful, blue eyes,” he said.

I smiled and pulled away, “Is that what you say to all the girls?” I responded with a huge smile on my face.

“I don’t know any girls with blue eyes,” he shrugged.

We laughed, he grabbed my hand and said “Let’s go take those drone photos.”

He led me to the car and we drove to where we parked before. We walked down to the beach again because, I guess he asked the owner if I could fly there. He is awesome, I thought to myself.

“I noticed you don’t take very many selfies,” he said, “Why not?”

“It’s not my thing,” I responded with a shrug.

“Can I take your photo?”

“I hate that even more!” I said laughing, “I’m nervous in front of the camera.”

“Well let me take one of you, I will do my best. It’s a really nice spot for a photo.”

“Oh God,” I said with a laughed nervously. “Just make sure my face doesn’t look fat, ok?”

He laughed, “ok, ok”

To my surprise I was quite impressed. “Wow…You’re good!” I said to him and thanked him with a kiss on the cheek.

“What do you American’s say?...I am never washing my cheek again..”

I laughed really hard. The way he said it, with his accent. And the cheesiness of it all. I liked laughed laughed.

“Alright lover boy, let fly the drone.”

I barely made it to the Santa Maria but it worked in the end. He was impressed and watched the screen the whole time.

“You like this yea?”

“I like it a lot,” I responded, “So what do you want to do now?” “Can I take you to dinner?” he asked.

“Yea, sure”

“Do you like fish?”

“Sure do! Probably more so since I am here.”

“Perfect,” he said “I have just the place.”

We showed up at this restaurant next to one of the cannons. They sat us right next to the ledge so we could see the lights on the coast of the beach. They all spoke to him and called him by name. He recommended the swordfish. I had never eaten it before. He chose a white wine for us. It was delicious. The sunset was complete as we received our meals. They brought us desert, which apparently was on the house he told me. A delicious cheese cake with berries. My favorite.

We talked and talked and talked some more. He translated everything into English for these places. Practically every English word written in this tourist town was written by him. Now I understand why everyone knows him. At the end of the meal I realized they gave him a fat discount on the bill too.

This guy is awesome, Stop saying that Shawn! I laughed inside my head.

We walked and talked and finally arrived to my hotel.

“I have to work tomorrow night, but can I see you again in the morning. I would like to take you to see some more places along the coast in the car.”

“Ummm, ok” I said a little hesitant because I don’t really know him…

He asked me if I could send him the photos when I was finished with them.

“Of course,” I said with a smile.

“A domani allora,” he kissed me on my cheeks, super close to my mouth.

“A domani,” I whispered and walked away from him.

“Giiiirl you are in T-R-O-U-B-L-E,” I laughed and whispered again,

“until tomorrow”

--To be continued

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