The best of Cefalu'

Eleonora Ruzzenenti | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Cefalu is a city and comune in the Province of Palermo, located on the northern coast of Sicily, about 70 km east from the provincial capital and 185 km west of Messina. Sandy beaches, a picturesque historic town on a rocky headland, artistic gems, decent transport links, amazing Sicilian food and sunshine all add up to make the town one of Italy's most attractive seaside destinations. The population of this small town, just under 14,000, in summer can triple, making the main streets and major roads in the country crowded. Its setting is spectacular. The ancient fishing port, dominated by its magnificent Norman cathedral, huddles below the mighty Rocca, a huge limestone crag from whose summit you can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views stretching as far as Palermo. Before rushing to the beach or visiting the major monuments be sure to take the time to explore the narrow streets of the medieval centre in Cefalu, which is very picturesque. The old town and harbour are overlooked by the cathedral in Piazza del Duomo, one of the most attractive churches in Sicily. The piazza is a lovely square, planted with palm trees and the perfect place to pause for a relaxing coffee. While beaches, shopping and sightseeing are the main entertainment during the day, Cefalu is almost as active late into the evening, during the summer at least, with a good selection of bars and restaurants to choose from.

THE DUOMO: It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world, a perfect example of the Norman style. The façade is strongly defined by the two angular towers, completed in 1240, the massive size of which is lightened by single and double windows. In 1472 an airy portico with triple arches was added. The interior has three naves, articulated in two rows of marble columns on which seven arches rest. The ceiling of the central nave is in painted wood and is an important example of the Islamic art in Sicily. The apse, the cross vault and the adjacent walls are decorated with mosaics that are part of a magnificent Christ Pantocrator, a perfect example of pure Byzantine style and workmanship, perhaps the most sublime representation. The legend tells that the cathedral was built by Roger II in the 12th century to fulfil a vow to God after his fleet was saved during a violent storm off Cefalù.

THE ROCCA: This imposing rocky crag is a hill of 278 meters overlooking the city and it was once the site of an Arab citadel, superseded in 1061 by the Norman castle whose ruins still crown the summit. To reach the top, follow signs for Tempio di Diana, taking Vicolo Saraceni off Corso Ruggero or Via Giuseppe Fiore off Piazza Garibaldi. The 30- to 45-minute route climbs the Salita Saraceni, a winding staircase, through three tiers of city walls before emerging onto rock-strewn upland slopes. There are stunning views of the town below and the ruined 4th-century BC Tempio di Diana provides a quiet and romantic getaway for young lovers.

THE OSTERIO MAGNO is very important civil building because once it was the residence of King Roger II. It is also known as the "Domus Regia". Now it is just the tower that remains, of rectangular shape and dating back to the Norman period.

THE WASH In Via Vittorio Emanuele is the public wash house known as "Lavatoio medievale", near the late Renaissance Palazzo Martino. In 1514 it was demolished and rebuilt in a more backward position compared to the city walls and the river that flowed in the open air was covered in the seventeenth century. In the summer of 1991 the restoration work was completed. The wash house has a lava stone staircase that leads to a smooth paving with time and a series of pools that are filled with the waters that flow from twenty-two mouths of cast iron arranged along the walls dominated by low times. Through a small cave, the water reaches the sea. In the tanks the supports that were used to rub the clothes are evident.

THE BEACHES: the "lungomare" of Cefalu is a very pleasant sandy beach with crystalline water but in summer it is jam-packed and to get a place for your towel could be very hard (expecially because the temperatures can rise up into the 40s). If you want to enjoy the sea I advise you to choose for an other nearby location as Caldura Beach, Capo Playa Beach, Castel di Tusa Beach, Pollina Beach, Mazzaforno Beach, Salinelle Beach (the largest beach but the water is not amazing), Kalura beach (stll in Cefalu city) and Coast House Beach (good for catching octopus)

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