On Sicily's north coast, Cefalù is a city of soft sand beaches, ancient ruins, and modern vitality. A Greek settlement, then Arab-dominated before being conquered by the Normans, it retains marks of all its epochs of history while blending a contemporary resort into the mix. The old town retains its ancient atmosphere and medieval lanes for walks among the honey-colored buildings where shadows of past centuries lend appeal.
You'll see why Cefalù was chosen to play a part in the popular film, Cinema Paradiso. The seafront promenade skirts the coast and draws the locals and tourists to enjoy the sea breezes, views and a nice stroll. The main shopping street of Corso Ruggero is lined with boutiques while Via Vittorio Emanuele is decked by a hundred balconies overlooking the busy street of restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. It's from here that you can descend the curved staircase to the "lavatoio," the old spring-fed wash basins where generations of women cleaned their clothes and linens. It's a picturesque scene placed in a cloister-like corner.
The Mandralisca Museum houses an eclectic collection of art and archeology, featuring ancient mosaics, sarcophoghi, shells and the Portrait of an Unknown Man by Antonello da Messina, completed in 1465 and sometimes referred to as "the male Mona Lisa" for its enigmatic smile and mysterious character. The Norman Cathedral dedicated to the Most Holy Savior. It was built in 1131 by Roger II, both to consolidate his power and to auspiciously give thanks for salvation from a raging storm. The mosaic-splashed apse is impressive (and is the oldest mosaic cycle in Sicily). The columns were recycled from the ancient temple of Diana. The cathedral's cloister is a must-see, too. The elaborately-carved capitals that cap the columns of the Moorish-styled arches are each a unique masterpiece.
Climb the Salita Saraceno, a staircase to heaven, or at least to the top of the promontory where the Temple of Diana once stood and where the remains of the Rocca are. The ascent will leave you breathless, but so will the views when you arrive at the megalithic rocks that once held the imposing fortress.
Wander the lanes of the historic center, sample fresh seafood, enjoy the crescent shaped beach that offers stretches of powdery sand. Cefalù has a lot to offer and is a great place to experience Sicilian life. It is about an hour from bustling Palermo, and tours or day trips to Siracusa and Mt. Etna can be organized from here, as well. Not far from the city is a beautiful countryside of olive groves and peaceful hills with timeless landscapes and tiny hill towns.
Explore nearby towns
On Sicily's north coast, this seaside resort is more than just a beach, it is also a great base for exploring the mountains and nearby Cefalu'.
An historical and interesting town in the hills south of Cefalù, Castelbuono is part of the Parco delle Madonie and a really beautiful hill town to explore.
Sitting in the hills, Montemaggiore has a beautiful setting among mountains and rivers, as its name implies.
Been there? Done that? Share your experience and tips!
Haven't visited yet? Have questions about Cefalù? Ask them here!