Italy Day 7 – Cefalu, Sicily

Kathy and I were both awake for the sunrise show—the sky morphed from pale blue to deep pink to orange.  After that, we had a lazy morning–breakfast on our terrace, laundry, drawing (Kathy), writing (me) and both of us reading intermixed with short periods of dozing off.

We set off through the resort property towards the beach. Along the way there were prickly pear cacti, palm trees, hibiscus, and loads of olive trees.  The Mediterranean water was startlingly blue against a clear blue sky. Shaded by an umbrella, we ate lunch while watching windsurfers, sunbathers, kayakers, and swimmers, as well as the stunning view.

After lunch and past the worst of the heat of the day, we headed into Cefalu.  Our GPS wasn’t up to the job of locating the Cathedral, so we saw a lot of back streets while a snippy voice announced “recalculating” over and over.  I swear Ditzy (as we named her) got more frustrated than we did at our inability to follow her directions. We eventually located a parking lot and pulled in.  It turned out to be right at the waterfront near the old city.

The walk along the beach front was gorgeous—sea, sky, rocky shoreline, restaurants, and lovely old buildings all dwarfed by the looming “rock.” La Rocca is the defining feature of the city—it can be seen from just about everywhere. It was once the site of an Arab citadel, followed by a Norman castle built in 1061. The ruins of the castle can still be seen.

We strolled through the old city’s narrow lanes, heading towards the cathedral. On one street I saw a woodcarver’s shop and had to stop in. His work was great fun, and I bought a small piece as a souvenir.

The street led directly to the Cathedral. We admired the exterior, but before going in I noticed a golf cart with a sign offering tours of Cefalu. For a very reasonable fee Kathy and I had a private tour of the old city. Our guide was great, he explained the city’s history, including the old gates (now gone), took us past places that had extraordinary views and pointed out fun sites—like where scenes from Cinema Paradiso and the upcoming Indiana Jones movie were filmed. He also told us that the very first Club Med was in Cefalu. In 1957 it was set up as a nudist colony, a shocker for ultra-conservative Sicilians. But it was also the start of Cefalu as a tourist destination. Eighty percent of the city’s income comes from tourism.

The view of the new harbor backed by the Bastione Marchiafava was magnificent. Despite Cefalu’s reliance on tourism it remains a fishing village.  We learned that there is so much fresh water that it is exported to other cities. I could go on to tell you more about the history and sites, they are fascinating, but really you should come and see for yourself.

As we strolled through the cobblestone streets, window shopping and people watching, we came upon a wedding party posing for photos.  We followed them to a place with an imposing view. From that vantage point we saw a restaurant jutting over the rocks. Without question, we had to eat dinner there. At Liberty Restaurant Bistro we snagged a table overlooking the sea, Kathy ate freshly caught bass and I ate grilled calamari that was perfection. Hearing that we are from New York made us celebrities with the staff, Susanna, and Katia.

Going back to the resort our car was hit by a railroad gate coming down on us (no damage done). Then Ditzy (the GPS) told us to turn right, immediately after we passed the turn. But we did arrive safely, happy to return to our lovely villa.