Cefalù is one of the most popular beach destinations in Sicily, and is ranked as one of the most beautiful small towns of Italy.
The history of Cefalù dates back to ancient Greece, when the town was settled under the Greek name – Kefale – which means “head”. It was built first along the coast but later also spread uphill. When the town was taken by the Arabs in the 9th century, it became a part of Palermo emirate. The main cathedral of Cefalù was built two centuries later by the Normans. As a typical Sicilian town, it witnessed several governmental changes before joining a united Italy in 1961.
Contemporary Cefalù inevitably turned into a mass tourism destination, which, however, does not ruin its authentic atmosphere. The iconic view of the old town of Cefalù above the nice, cozy beach is the best tourist teaser ever! There is everything one needs for a quality vacation – hotels, B&Bs, restaurants and shops. However, this town is not the cheapest – the prices for hotel accommodation are comparable to Palermo and Catania.
Things to see
Start your sightseeing from Piazza del Duomo, surrounded by beautiful Norman palazzos. The main building there is, of course, Duomo – the Cathedral of Cefalù. This cathedral belongs to the 9th century; it is one of those iconic pieces of Sicilian architecture – you can see how many changes were brought on it by different cultures. In the backyard of the Cathedral there’s a sarcophagus with soil brought from Jerusalem. Go inside to see the unique mosaic frescoes –there you will see the image of Christ, the Virgin Mary and the twelve apostles.
From the main piazza, take any one of little streets with shops and restaurants; most of them lead down to the seaside. The street Corso Rugero leads to the Piazza Garibaldi, and from there you can climb up to the top of Cefalù – to the castle from the 6th century B.C. This hill is what was initially named “the head” – Kefale.
Coming back to the old town, there’s another landmark – Palazzo Osterio Magno on Via Amendola. It is considered one of the main buildings because King Roger II used to stay there when visiting the town. Another historic building you might want to see is slightly less fancy – it is the laundry building on the street Vittorio Emmanuele. The historic water supply system there has been preserved.
And of course, there’s Lungomare – a long boardwalk with shops and gelaterias. The beach is beautiful at any time of the day, but especially charming at sunset. If you are making it a day-trip from Palermo, don’t forget your swimsuit but be prepared to pay for a sunbed if you’d like to use it. A day on the beach can cost you up to 10 euro, but prices may vary depending on the location.
How to get to Cefalù
The easiest way is to take a train from Palermo (about every hour from central station and it takes 1.5 hours one way). You can also arrive from the other side – Messina, same way, but longer distance – in about 3 hours. From Catania you can take a bus, operated by the Sitabus company. If you are arriving from some minor destination in Sicily, it makes sense to ask for bus information at your local bus station.