Cefalu Tourist Attractions
CommunicationsSS 113/A 19 Palermo-Messina; railroad stationLocationCefalù is strikingly situated at the foot of a rock halfway along the north coast of Sicily.
It is an attractive little fishing town, dominated by its Norman cathedral, which in the last few years has developed into a popular holiday resort.HistoryThe name Cefalù is derived from the Greek Kephaloidion and Latin Cephaloedium, which in turn is connected with the word Kephalos (Greek for "head"). This refers to the shape of the rock, at the bottom of which the present town is situated and on top of which the original settlement was built. This rock, the Rocca di Cefalù, lent itself in ancient times to being both a place of settlement and one of worship. Exact data for the early period are not obtainable, but some evidence of both Phoenician and Sikel occupation has been traced. The town entered historical records in 396 B.C. when it joined the Carthaginian town of Himilkon in its campaign against Messina. The Sikel town was twice conquered by Syracuse, in 394 B.C. by Dionysios I and in 305 B.C. by Agathokles. In 254 B.C. the Romans were able to capture it and bring it under the civitas decumana. Subsequently the town never retained any importance, either under the rule of the Byzantines (395-858) or the Arabs (858-1063). This was to alter only with the advent of the Norman king Roger II. He moved the settlement down to the base of the rock from its fortified position on the top and in 1131, just one year after his coronation, started work on the majestic cathedral which to this day dominates the townscape.
The Cefalù Cathedral is one of the main tourist stops. The graceful building, linked to King Roger II, was begun in the mid 12th C and features three aisles and a vast transept.
On the west side of the Piazza del Duomo in Cefalù stands the town hall. Next to it runs the Via Mandralisca, in which the Museo Mandralisca is situated. it contains Greek vases (including a piece with a decoration depicting a tuna fish seller), Arab vases, coins and a collection of mussels. Of the panel paintings the well-known "Portrait of a Man" by Antonello da Messina (1465) deserves mention.
At the Via Vittorio Emanuele are situated the Church of San Biagio (13th century) and a public washplace, probably dating from the Arabian period. There is a charming view of the fishing-port.
The Corso Ruggero, the main street of Cefalù, branches off from the Piazza del Duomo in a southerly direction. At the junction with the Via Amendola on the right-hand side stands the Hosterium Magnum with a double and triple window. It was once the residence of King Roger II. The Corso, which is named after him, ends at the Piazza Garibaldi.
Tempio di Diana
In Cefalù one can see the remains of a megalithic temple to Diana (ninth century B.C.), a cistern from Arab times and castle ruins and a perimeter wall dating from the Norman period. The view of the town is superb and in clear weather it is possible to see the Aeolian Islands.
At the north end of the Corso Ruggero in Cefalù is the starting point of the climb (1 hour) of the crag known as the Rocca (269m/888ft), which is composed almost entirely of fossils; remains of a medieval castle and of an ancient polygonal structure known as the Tempio di Diana (9th century B.C.). From the highest point, on which are remains of a Norman castle, there are magnificent views.
Situated between the cape and the railroad station at Pollina, Capo Raisigerbi (16km/10mi to the east of Cefalù) is a village with an excellent choice of well-appointed hotels.
LocationA winding, scenic road leads from Cefalù southwards to Gibilmanna, situated on the slopes of the 1,081m/3,547ft high Pizzo Sant'Angelo.
In a beautiful situation lies the pilgrimage convent of Gibilmanna (bus connections), the name of which contains in its first part the Arabic word Djebel (= mountain), and thus means "mountain of manna". The church was built in the 17th/18th century, a Gagini madonna in its interior being particularly revered. Every year, on the occasion of the festival of the birth of the Virgin Mary (September eighth), the sanctuary of Gibilmanna is visited by pilgrims from all over Sicily.The shrine is connected to a cultural center and a library which is maintained by the Capucins.
Cozzo Timpa Rosa
An unmade road 4km/2mi long leads to the observatory on the Cozzo Timpa Rosa, situated at an altitude of 1,005m/3,297ft (view).
Map of Cefalu Attractions