Explore Sicily - Cefalù
“The greatest advertisement for Christianity that I know anywhere on Earth”
John Julius Norwichon the 12th century mosaic of Christ Pantocrator
Just an hour by train outside of Palermo you will arrive to the village of Cefalù, dramatically set between Sicily’s North coast and a towering granite mass known as “La Rocca.” Modest in size, its permanent population of about 14,000 swells significantly in the summer season. In such a compact town, Cefalù encapsulates the best of Sicily: stunning views, beautiful beaches, narrow cobblestones streets, historic architecture and of course freshly caught and deliciously prepared seafood.
Here is your quick guide to a perfect day in this beautiful town: Cefalù
Explore the Cathedral According to Legend, Roger II, the Norman King was sailing home from Southern Italy when a storm threatened the safety of his trip. He vowed that if he survived the squall, he would erect a church and dedicate it to his saviors and saints Peter and Paul. Sure enough, the storm passed and the ship berthed in Cefalù.
On orders from Roger II, construction on the cathedral began in 1131. The distinguishing towers were added in 1240. It’s essential to wander inside the cathedral and be amazed at the elaborate Byzantine mosaics, completed in 1148. Particularly impressive is the mosaic of Christ Pantocrator in the apse. Because it is a Norman Church, Christ is depicted as a blonde. Along with several Arab-Norman structures in Palermo and the Cathedral of Monreale, Cefalù’s Cathedral gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 2015.
Hours: Summer 8:00AM-12:00PM and 3:30-7:00PM. Off-season 8:00AM-12:00PM and 3:30-5:00PM. Admission: Free
Climb La Rocca For breathtaking views over the town get ready to ascend 270 meters to the top of La Rocca.
From the Cathedral follow signs towards “Tempio di Diana,” the Temple of Diana which dates from the 9th to the 4th Centuries B.C. The ascent begins with a set of stairs which takes roughly 30 minutes to climb. From here, the stairs disappear and the path turns to earth and gravel. Though it is slightly more harrowing it’s still easily manageable with proper footwear and a willpower. The total ascent takes about an hour at a leisurely pace with plenty of photo stops. In my opinion the best views of the climb are about halfway up by a view point overlooking the town.
Hours: Summer 8:00AM-7:00PM Off-season 9:00AM-4:00PM Admission: 4 Euros
Relax at the beach or at a beachfront cafe After the descent from La Rocca, it’s time for a well deserved break. Sit in one of the many beach front cafes to enjoy the afternoon sunshine and a refreshing drink.
For Dinner: Menus tend to be preaty similar throughout the town and you can find many Italian staples. I recommend trying something uniquely Sicilian. Consider Pasta con le Sarde: pasta and sardines served in a sauce consisting of tomatoes, pine nuts, raisins, wild fennel, garlic, onion, white wine and topped with bread crumbs.