Still based in Palermo for the time being, we woke early to catch a morning train to the seaside town of Cefalù hoping to spend a full day there. I’ve had 2 Sicilians recommend the town to me at random, so what better place for a day trip on our last day in this northwestern region of Sicily?
It wasn’t long, a mere 45 minutes along the Tyrrhenian Sea before we were stepping out into this lovely coastal town. It was slightly reminiscent of my much adored Cinque Terre, with its narrow cobblestone streets, cliff side houses, and shop after shop of so many of my favorite things. Jenn and I spent plenty of time popping in and out of shops snagging small pastries, cheeses, salamis, jars of pesto and pâté, and gelato. Before we knew it, we had the makings of a perfect little picnic that we promptly enjoyed in the town square.
I traveled to Sicily more for the sake of “being here… experiencing it” than for any specific site or agenda. In fact, I didn’t have ANY must-see sites… I just wanted to wander and “see what happens.” This day in Cefalù was a perfect example of what I was hoping for. This perfectly charming town, wrapped along the bright blue sea with winding streets and small shops and friendly people. Purely relaxing; this typical coastal Italian village with pastel colored buildings, quaint iron balconies boasting colorful flowers on its ledges… laundry dries on wires and scooters race by on too-narrow streets.
Entering the town’s large cathedral (built almost 900 years ago!), my eye is instantly drawn to a large mosaic image of Christ, so impressively detailed it seems like a painting. I think stone cathedrals are one of the most relaxing, peaceful places to spend moments. As I sit, I notice the ceiling is surprisingly made of wooden beams; still towers above you… only instead of stone, you’ll find wood. I actually like the effect.
After leaving the church, we decide to climb up to the town’s towering stone mass that is La Rocca (the Rock), primarily for the view and to see the Temple of Diana, dating back to 9th century BC, to found up there. In the middle of town, we find the stairs that will begin our ascent. Soon we pass through an old iron gate and find ourselves in a beautiful natural habitat complete with stunning view! Overlooking the town of Cefalù with its red roofs, green hills, and bright blue water, we stare appreciatively while enjoying the cool breeze after our short hike. We keep climbing, following signs that direct us to the Temple.
La Rocca may have been an ancient city with it’s rocky traces of the city wall and temple ruins. Near the Temple of Diana we’re snapping photos when I suddenly turn to see a herd of sheep! I can certainly state that the last thing I would expect to see up here are sheep! They have little bells around their necks and were wandering about like they owned the place.. which they very well might as there are no other creatures around but lizards and ants. I’ll come to appreciate this all over Sicily, but I love the way many major natural sites are so open and available to explore and see. No lines, tickets, and ropes. We’re able to step within the ruins and properly check it all out. As we relax in the lush grassy area, with the sheep, we gaze up into the distance… to the peak of La Rocca where a castle perches at the very tip. As we debate continuing on, we meet a returning hiker that informs us while it is an amazing view from the tippy top.. it is also another 45 minutes of hiking. It’s a warm day and we’re nearly out of water, being unprepared for such a legitimate hike, so we opt to be satisfied with the temple. We had no idea what we would find in Cefalù, hence Jenn’s cute Anthropologie dress, that will further be known as her “hiking dress.”
Following a slippery descent, in our Simple “Converse-like” shoes (*note another example of our unpreparedness) we spend the rest of our afternoon on the boardwalk along the beach. Sitting at the café with a delicious gnocchi and glass of wine, overlooking the sea, is a wonderful way to relax after a nice hike.
Tomorrow we’ll head east to Catania, but back in Palermo for tonight, we enjoyed dinner at the same restaurant and again joined the pools of bar-goers enjoying the occasion that is Saturday night.