If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that we spend our summer holidays in Italy. Sometimes we go to places we’ve already been and other times we like to explore new places. This summer we chose to holiday in new places, one of which was Cefalù.
Cefalù is located around 70km east of Palermo. We flew into Palermo from London, stayed a night and then got the train to Cefalù in the morning. It only took around 40 minutes so can be done as a day trip from Palermo if you’re visiting. However, I highly recommend you stay longer as it’s a gorgeous city with lots to see and do.
We stayed five nights, which was a perfect amount of time to enjoy Cefalù and the surrounding towns. We opted to stay in a lovely, modern AirBnB, which was about a 2 minute walk to the stunning Duomo.
There are so many hotels in Cefalù to suit any budget, if you prefer a hotel to an AirBnB.
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The impressive Duomo sits in a lovely piazza and is a gorgeous two-towered Norman cathedral, which dates back to the 11th century.
In the piazza are restaurants, cafes and bars and is a great place to enjoy the view of the Duomo with the impressive La Rocca behind (a big rock, which you can climb. We didn’t climb it, which I regret but leaves us something new to do the next time we visit!). On some nights there was live music in the piazza.
A top tip is to enjoy a traditional Sicilian granita in the Piazza, which is served with a brioche that you dip in to the granita. My husband opted for the coffee one with cream – absolutely delicious and also perfect for the heat.
What to see and do
Cefalù might not be huge, but there is plenty to keep you occupied. Obviously one of the main reasons we went was for the beach. Cefalù has two main beaches in the town itself, one of which is a long stretch of sand (and really busy) and the other is smaller. Just look how gorgeous this entrance to the smaller beach is. You can opt to pay for a sun-lounger and umbrella or you can simply lay down your towel in the public area.
If you have transport (we had a scooter) then you can explore beaches a bit out. One we really liked, was about a 5 minute drive from the town. There were quite steep stairs to reach it but totally worth it!
Apart from the beach, a definite must-do is a visit to the Duomo. The Duomo is an Arab-Norman cathedral which dates back to 1131 although it’s been added to over the years – the Norman towers were added in the 15th century. The impressive duomo is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list and it comprises of a series of structures, including two towers which you can climb (they only opened the towers this year). You can enter for free, however if you want to see more then you need to buy a ticket. We chose the €8 ticket, which gave us access to all areas and was totally worth the money.
The view from the tower was just breathtaking. Looking over the rooftops to the stunning colours of the Tyrrhenian sea.
Another must-see in Cefalù is the Lavatoio Medievale, which is a medieval wash house where women used to go to wash clothes centuries ago. It’s built on the river and legend has it that the river was formed from the tears of a nymph who had accidentally caused the death of her lover.
Cefalù is part of Madonie park, which is a nature reserve in Sicily and includes 15 towns. Many of these towns are in the mountains and are easily accessible from Cefalù as a day trip. We visited Castlebuono, which is around 23km from Cefalù and is a medieval town with – as you probably guessed – a castle.
When we arrived it was like stepping back in time as we immediately saw a working donkey having a rest. It’s a very Sicilian thing, apparently.
The castle dates back to the 13th century and was built upon an existing 12th century watchtower by Count Francesco I Ventimiglia. It’s impressive but looks more like a fortress than a castle! Unfortunately it was closed when we visited so we didn’t get to go inside.
Castelbuono is a really lovely little town and well worth a day trip from Cefalù – if you don’t have your own transport, you can get a bus. We stayed for lunch and had a great meal at Ristorante Palazzaccio. It’s so interesting how different the menu is from Cefalù, which is focused on seafood. In Castelbuono, the menu is more hearty and comforting – think porcini mushrooms and ragu.
On another afternoon we visited Pollina, another little town in Madione Park (high up in the mountains) where time seems to have stood still. It was very different to Castelbuono, which seemed way more bustling than sleepy Pollina. Apparently an earthquake in 1993 destroyed the village and most people moved out, which explains its eeriness.
Pollina has a very impressive teatro, which was built with local Pietrarosa or pink stone. The town used to have a castle but now only a tower is left.
Where to eat
We were impressed with the food we had in Cefalù and if you’re looking for a restaurant with a view, you’ll be spoilt for choice as many restaurants have views over the sea.
We ate at Kentia twice (once for dinner and once for lunch), which was recommend to us by the owner of our AirBnB. It was good! Not amazing but definitely good. That view though…
Other restaurants we enjoyed were Cortile Pepe, which has a lovely outdoor area although is really nice and modern inside too. They even had an open kitchen where you could watch the chefs.
We also ate at Cala Luna, which is part of a hotel by the marina, with great views. We were impressed until they served our main immediately after our starters…
Hands down the best pasta we had was at Camilleri. It was fabulous! Plus the restaurant itself is lovely too.
Two other restaurants I’d recommend are Mandralisca, which is very close to the Duomo and was in the same street as our AirBnB, and Galleria, which is in the courtyard of an art gallery.
Of course, aperitivo is an absolute must when in Italy and our favourite place to go was Rossorubino. Order the tomato bruschetta – divine! They bring out a big chalk board of the wines on offer that night, which you order from.
We absolutely loved Cefalù and can’t wait to return. I already have a list of things I want to see and do that we didn’t get round to, which is always a good reason to return to a place. I highly recommend a visit – particularly if you like beaches, culture, history and good food!