Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Tropea – a city that knows its onions

When it comes to essential Italian cooking ingredients, one vegetable near the top of the list must be onions. Just as animals evolve to adapt to their surroundings, so too do plants. It’s one of the reasons Tropea onions, taking their name from the coastal city in Vibo Valentia where they grow, are so special.

With a sandy soil and year-round mild climate, parts of Tropea have created an iconic onion that is surprisingly sweet tasting, making it perfect for salads, drizzling in olive oil on bruschetta, topping pizzas or even caramelizing and adding to gelato.

Part of the ‘lily’ family of onions, there are three main varieties of Tropea. The
white ’cipollotto’, soft and harvested in October, the similar ‘cipolla da serbo’, which is red, has long stems and is harvested in April and the large, dry, crunchy and sweet ‘cipolla da serbo’.

At harvest time you’ll find bunches of the onions on sale by roadsides and at market stalls throughout the region. So iconic is the taste of these regional onions that the European Union awarded the Tropea onion protected designation of origin, meaning only onions grown in the Tropea vicinity can lay claim to the name.