Until recently, the weather during our stay in Palermo had been uncommonly pleasant. But luck never lasts and, eventually, the rains and cold came. The day we chose for our visit to Cefalù was unpredictable, with clear blue skies suddenly giving way to thunderstorms. Secretly, Jürgen and I both wanted to postpone the trip, but neither wanted to be the wimp that suggested it. And so, full of pride and regret, we hopped on the train to Cefalù.
Cefalù numbers just 13,000, but its population balloons in the summer. The town is one of Sicily’s finest beach resorts and attracts sunbathers from all over Italy and Europe. From what we’ve heard, it’s unbearable when crowded. And although we found the streets empty in December, the emphasis on tourism was abundantly clear. €3 cappuccinos and stores hawking magnets and postcards to phantoms.
Cefalù is most memorable for the giant rock which flanks it. Throwing its massive shadow over the old town, La Rocca juts up vertically alongside Cefalù, and is crowned with the ruins of the Greek Temple of Diana. We had a good view of La Rocca from the beach, where we started our visit. With soft, golden sand, the beach is the reason for Cefalù’s summertime popularity, but was difficult to enjoy in the freezing rain.
Soon enough, we left the beach to seek shelter in the city’s cathedral. The Duomo is reminiscent of Monreale’s, built in the same century (12th) by the same king (Roger II). And, like Monreale’s cathedral, it features original Byzantine mosaics; actually older, though somewhat less impressive. Another similarity is the presence of a square cloister, filled with columns that depict biblical scenes.
The Cathedral and the beach are great, but we most enjoyed ambling about Cefalù’s ancient streets, which date from Roman times. Even in the rain, or perhaps especially because of it, the town, with its curvy alleys and stunning natural location, exudes a natural charm. We went north until finding the belvedere, which faces the sea. There, we found a path which runs along the stones, following the ancient Greek walls, and foolishly decided to walk it. I mean, we knew there were huge waves crashing violently against the rocks. We could see them! I don’t know, we were bored or feeling adventurous, but minutes after embarking on this ill-advised trek, we got trapped between rocks and smashed by a giant, unavoidable wave.
It didn’t matter much, because we were already drenched from the rain, but this final shower put an end to our day, and we stomped back to the train station. Still, we had enjoyed the day out. It’d be interesting to see how Cefalù changes in the summer, but if you have the chance, it’s definitely worth a look in the low-season as well. A nice little escape, just an hour by train from Palermo.