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Holidays in Cefalu give you a microcosm of the best of Italy. Whatever attracts you to Sicily, or even the beautiful country itself, you’ll find it in this coastal town whose character greatly overcomes its modest size. Whether you’re looking for modern metropolitan culture, to explore absorbing historical heritage or simply to settle in for long sun drenched days on luxurious beaches living the true la dolce vita, Cefalu has it all.
Situated on Sicily’s Tyrrhenian coast a short way east of Palermo and in the shade of the large headland La Rocca, Cefalu holidays offer something for families, couples and adventurers. From the imposingly grand Cathedral to the ancient Roman Baths there is no shortage of sightseeing opportunities, while families with younger children will love the long golden sandy beach. Couples will adore a leisurely romantic stroll through the cobblestone streets or walk to the top of La Rocca to take in an idyllic sunset before heading back into town and dinner at one of Cefalu’s many fine restaurants.
While many rightly flock to Cefalu to see the famous Cathedral, there are numerous smaller churches dotted around the old town that are also well worth a look. You’re likely to find these attractions much quieter that the main Cathedral. Among the best of these are the Chiesa dell’Immacolatella, dating to 1661, with its majestic central Madonna statue and well preserved frescoes, and the Santa Oliva, which boasts a rustic volcanic tuff portal.
For the adventurous, The Abbey of Thelema is an unusual alternative attraction. In the 1920s this now abandoned building was home to a commune and “magical school” founded by the English occultist Aleister Crowley. It hides a sordid yet fascinating history.
Much of the ancient city of Cefalu that once stood on the site is now gone, but there are still fascinating traces of its existence to be found if you know where to look. At the summit of the promontory are the remains of an ancient Saracenic fortress and the Tempio di Diana, and you can still see the foundations of the city walls that could date back to as early as 396 BC.
Cefalu’s iconic cathedral is its most popular sightseeing destination and the highlight of any trip to the city. It’s easy to see why: the Duomo di Cefalu is a stunning example of Norman architecture that has stood since Sicily’s conqueror Roger II built it in 1131 as a tribute to the Holy Saviour after he escaped to the city’s beach from a storm. The Duomo’s duo of majestic towers dominate the view of the city, even from street level – the length of the two closest streets were specifically designed to be overlooked by the towers, a reminder to everyone who walked them of their presence. The interior, with its intricate mosaics, is just as spectacular.
If you’re in Cefalu in June you can catch the Fruottula, which is a parade of flower covered floats that brings the whole town together in a celebratory atmosphere. During the rest of the summer Cefalu is a wonderful example of the simple pleasures of a seaside town. The golden sand beach is perfect for sunbathing, swimming or building sandcastles with the kids, and tends to be quieter than some of the more popular beaches in Sicily. The beachfront is lined with charming restaurants. Venture further through the narrow cobblestone streets to find a variety of shops.
The closest airport to Cefalu is Palermo (PMO), which is about 1 hour 30 minutes from Cefalu. Direct flights to Palermo are available from London Gatwick and take approximately 2 hours 50 minutes.
Like all of Sicily, you’ll find the food in Cefalu to be eclectic, with a wide variety of influences. Its coastal location means you’ll find some fantastic seafood, too. A great example of this is at the restaurant, La Botte on Via Veterani, which blends local, traditional flavours and ingredients with modern flair, such as in their skewered scabbard fish in orange sauce. For something more quintessentially Sicilian, we recommend the squid ink and ricotta couscous.
Street food is a big deal in Sicily, and there’s no better setting to experience it than Cefalu. Arancini is a particular speciality. A recipe dating back to the 10th Century, during the Arab rule of the island, these deep fried breaded rice balls are a treat. A variety of fillings are used – from mozzarella to mushrooms and even aubergines – to create a delicious taste of Sicily you might not have expected.
Wine and Sicily, of course, go hand in hand, and you’ll have ample opportunity to sample Cefalu’s local varieties. But you might not associate the island with beer. For those more inclined towards hops than grape, Kalapinta on Via Carrettieri is a hidden gem and the perfect place to try some of the best craft beers Sicily has to offer while soaking up some of the local atmosphere.
To pre-book one of our specially selected excursions, please call our Italy Experts on 01293 762410*.