Cefalù, a small coastal town, just an hour drive from Palermo, is one of great tourist attractions in Sicily. Its undeniable charm, beautiful sandy beaches, picturesque old streets and excellent food make up for the town’s small size. Several famous Italian films have been made in Cefalù, including the Oscar-winning Cinema Paradiso.
There are many elegant palaces around the older part of the town, centro storico, that reflect Sicily’s eventful past: you will spot Norman, Byzantine, Arab, and Spanish influences. The imposing 12th century Norman Cathedral (Il Duomo) is one of the main architectural gems of Cefalù. Its entrance is flanked by the two majestic towers with battlements. Inside you can admire spectacular Byzantine mosaics, which, according to some art experts, are more impressive and better preserved than those in Palermo and Monreale.
Hovering above the town is the massive rock called La Rocca. Climbing to the top is a daunting task on a hot summer day and takes about 40 minutes but it is certainly worth the effort. Near the summit sit the ruins of the Temple of Diana (Tempio di Diana), a megalithic stone structure revamped by ancient Greeks in the 5th century BC. There is also a glorious pile of rocks, all that remains from the 13th century Cefalù Castle and, naturally, majestic sea views that will make you forget about the strenuous climb.
The Marchiafava Bastion is another great spot for admiring panoramic vistas from which, on clear days, you can see the Aeolian Islands.
There are other interesting sites in Cefalù, such as the Lavatoio, a Saracen wash-house, that was used by local women to do their laundry until not too long ago and the medieval Osterio Magno, the remaining part of a large palace where, according to legends, the king of Sicily Roger II lived.
Don’t miss the Puppet theater on Corso Ruggero where traditional Sicilian folklore puppet shows are still performed. The wooden, hand-carved puppets are one meter high and are real masterpieces.
Cefalù is also famous for its delicious seafood and fish dishes that are served in restaurants around the town.
Photos by: Julie Kertesz, Charles Roffey, Terry Feuerborn.