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If possible stay right in the heart of the old town and you will see EVERYTHING!
It is not necessary to have a car whilst staying in the town itself but to venture further afield, for example down the coast to Capo Vaticano a car is necessary.
Il Convento Della Pieta is recommended as an excellent place to stay - this in the past has been a convent for around 300 years, but also used for other purposes throughout its lifetime. It has been stunningly renovated, it is built into the cliff around 300 foot above the sea with stunning views.
There are innumerable old buildings, many being renovated, some closed due to being unsafe and others, although they still look a bit "daggy" from the outside, it is apparent they have been updated and modernised inside.
Definately get a book on Tropea when you are there so you can find out what all the buildings are/used to be, the history of the town itself (which dates from BC ) and also some of the surrounding area.
Travel out of season if possible thereby avoiding the crushing crowds of tourists - November is a good time and whilst all the "touristy" places will be closed there is still much to see. Lots of beautiful Italian shops stocked with local produce fresh and preserved, local wine, breads, cheeses and meats. Still many of the cafes and restaurants remain open at this time of the year and although winter approaches beautiful sunny days abound.
The people are beautiful and although they seem to speak little English they are very welcoming and friendly. As time goes by and more people find this place that will change. The siesta is still practised and it is quite strange to see all the shops shut up at around noon and the place becomes quite deserted until around 5 in the evening and then it is alive until around 9.00.
Lots of touristy knicknacks can be bought, lots of cheap restaurants and lots of history to explore. The only drawback is that it is a long walk to the beach if you stay in the old town- around 300 steps down to the sea which would mean if you stayed there in the heat of summer you would be very hot by the time you got back home.