Chasing Cefalú’s Charms: An Easy Day Trip from Palermo

Cefalú enjoys being classically appealing, a Sicilian town where the locals will be the first to help you when your rental car gets jammed down a side street. Suddenly the whole village is out to direct, in no need of returning to the workday at hand. Yes, Cefalú is a class act built on a spur jutting out into the Tyrrhenian coast. The setting for Cinema Paradiso, the narrow medieval streets of Cefalú have been inhabited since the 9th century B.C. Backpackers can thank Roger II for much of the town’s creation and grand design, lending those charms you leave Palermo for in the first place.

· Location, Location, Location–Cefalú has location on its side. The city rests on the coast, in between Palermo and Messina. If you are arriving from the mainland of Italy by train, you will probably land in Messina. You can go by bus or train to Cefalú. The same can be said for Palermo. Alternatively, hire a car from Erento and go at your own pace.

· The Show in Town–The big show in town is Cefalú’s Duomo. The Norman Cathedral is recognizable for its two towers. At the center of town, Roger II wanted to pay back a higher power after his life was spared in a violent storm. His vision for the Cefalú Duomo would come to fruition by 1240. While the exterior is impressive, inside is the real showstopper. The oldest Byzantine Norman mosaics in Sicily liter the walls and ceiling of the Duomo. Christ is clad in mosaics with blond hair, for he was a Norman after all, or so the Normans would have it.

· A Portrait of a City’s Art Scene–Cefalú does not have the art scene of Palermo, but it does contend its Museo Mandralisca is important just the same. If you find yourself here, you are probably looking to see the Portrait of an Unknown Man by Antonello da Messina. Antonello was a great Renaissance from neighboring Messina.

· Shop until you drop–Before the sun starts to set and the day is not complete, the shops of Cefalú reopen after the afternoon siesta. As the shop front start to open, the crowds arrive. Even if you aren’t in the market to buy anything, it is a scene to join.

· Make the Climb to La Rocca–Cefalú stands apart from other Sicilian major cities with its La Rocca, the craggily rock on top of the village. You can follow the Salita Saracena, an enormous staircase to the top. After around thirty minutes, you can be at La Rocca, known for its glorious views of the town below.

· Just Beachy–The main appeal of staying in Cefalú is to take advantage of the beach. Along the side of town, there is a fine beach, crowded with beach blankets in summer time. In the off-season it is just as enchanting. Sit at a restaurant along the water and watch the water lap up the shores.

Just 50 miles from Palermo, rather than sticking to the big city, Cefalú lends that seaside charm all with a 278 meter crag La Rocca watching over it all. If only rocks could talk, Cefalú’s story would probably be even more intriguing.

Written by GYE contributor Suzy Guese.

  • Jeri Murphy
    Posted at 22:45h, 26 May

    Thank you for sharing your visit to Cefalu.

    We visited this charming town in April of 2011. Watching my 15-year old granddaughter run on the beach, face aglow with joy, was one of the highlights of our trip!!

    I enjoyed reading your comments about the history of the Duomo (which we visited), and I am inspired to climb to La Rocca when I return.

    I have recently begun writing a travel blog with an eye toward accessibility (my stepdaughter uses a wheelchair). I’d love to have your feedback, especially if you have any suggestions for accessible travel.

    Here’s the link:

    Thanks again for bringing back Cefalu memories!


  • Larry Aiello
    Posted at 19:29h, 18 June

    One of my favorite destinations in Italy is Cefalu’. I’m surprised it is not considered more often as a top spot in Italy. The access is easy via train. You can walk from the station to the beach. And the beach is very sandy and spacious for Italian standards.

    Definitely a must see!


Post A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.