It was about 3 years ago when I paid my first quick visit to Cefalù. I say quick, because time just wasn’t on my side. A gorgeous walk along the beach was nothing more than a tease and certainly not enough to kill this cat’s curiosity. As expected, a coastal temptress of this caliber lingers on the brain, calling one to return with random signs, coincidental conversations, memories and even dreams. I promised myself I would go back, and I did.
We drove east along the A20/E90 and there it appeared, just as I remembered, a heavenly sight to behold against the bright cerulean blue sea.
Once known by its Greek founders as Κεφαλὴ (ce.fa.ˈli), this ancient city in the province of Palermo rests along a steep headland, majestically projecting into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Travelers would be mistaken to consider Cefalù of lesser beauty than say, Taormina. They are both unique and captivating in their own right.
Taormina can be described as more “bling”, posh, as dramatic and grandiose as its breath-taking panoramas. Prepare for a hodge podge of tourists, models, dapper playboys, a mecca for jewelry lovers, the “Dolce Gabbana” of cliffside cities. Cefalù, on the other hand, is charming, breezy, an artist’s hideaway for sure. It’s quasi-Banana Republic in its laid back style. It boasts an underground ancient river in the serenest of nooks, with a blend of tourists and friendly locals perusing the quaint side streets, and seaside views to sooth the soul. During off season, the population stands at about 14,000 but can apparently triple during summer months. Sounds threatening, but it’s hard to believe considering I never once felt like a curbside ant. Truly.
In early September, tourist season was still in full swing. For five days the city dedicated itself to the works of 38 local and international artists with a presentation entitled, Cefalù, Citta degli Artisti- Simposio di Arte Contemporanea e Laboratorio. The streets were speckled with paintings, sculptures, photography, and stairways leading to small exhibits featuring one of a kind artistic designs. It was the perfect excuse to slow down and take it all in.
Dating back to 1131, il Duomo di Cefalù towers ever so beautifully in the city’s center, reminding us of its Norman past. This Sicilian Romanesque styled cathedral has layer upon layer of history. Come inside and behold a cloister, byzantine motifs, precious mosaics and traces of Arab influence. And just across the way in this massive piazza you will find a surprise; its complete architectural opposite. The Town Hall or Comune di Cefalù, is distinctly modern, courtesy of renovations by Pasquale Culotta and fellow architect, Giuseppe “Bibi” Leone. Some may appreciate their contribution, while others seem perplexed, not only for its design, but also the stark contrast in such close proximity.
There may be a difference of opinion in piazza, but along the city’s ancient walls, there’s no debate. Cefalù’s coastline is just dreamy. While roaming around one late afternoon, I came upon Piazza Francesco Crispi. Facing the rocky edge of the city is la Chiesa dell’Itria. It leans up against Il Bastione di Capo Marchiafava, a bulwark or former defensive wall, converted into a lookout by none other than architect, Culotta. To access it, I climbed a few stairs and from there, soaked up the scenery: its distant lighthouse, rocky coastline, never ending blue water and nuns.
Yes I said nuns. And yes, I have pictures.
When I say the city is heavenly, it truly is and like three little white angels floating on the rocks below, there they were, laughing with every crashing wave, posing for pictures with their iPads (oh the humor) and enjoying the beauty that is Cefalù.
If you’re feeling inspired, try this simple, healthy dish for Sgombro ai capperi e limone. It’s guaranteed to make you say, “Holy Mackerel!” Want to take a trip to Cefalù? The video above, a must see, is a perfect glimpse of the details that make this city so special.
Thank you [NoZ]iMAgES for capturing its true essence! Merci [NoZ]iMAgES pour votre beau travail! This trip and recipe would not have been possible if it weren’t for my lovely sister-in-law and her wonderful husband. Angelina e Tonino. Grazie di cuore!!!