A Train Trip to the Medieval City of Cefalu

One of the popular sights in Cefalu is the Gothic-style “Porta Marina”, also called “Porta dei Pescatori” (Fishermen’s Gate), the only remaining of four city gates and a popular spot for photographers. A few steps away from here is the “lavatoio”, a public laundry washing area with a stone fountain with numerous basins that were used until recently to wash clothes by hand.

The “Lavatoio”

I strolled through the narrow streets which were now getting quieter since the afternoon siesta time had started. Cefalu is flanked on its eastern side by a rocky promontory called “La Rocca” which towers over the town and promised to provide a perfect vantage point of the area.

Starting my ascent of the “Rocca”

So I strolled up to the Piazza Duomo and beside the ancient Norman cathedral I found a narrow side street that was running right along the base of the rock. A few hundred meters further inland the pathway started to climb upwards, with the view getting increasingly more impressive. About 15 minutes into the climb I reached a gate with two local municipal employees who were charging admission of 3.50 Euros to the rock. I figured it was worth it, paid the fee and continued my climb.

The views are phenomenal

Looking up towards the top of the rock I saw the stony ruins of a fortification dating back to the 12th and 13th century. Once I had reached the plateau below the summit I saw a number of ancient structures, including the “Tempio di Diana”, a megalithic structure dating back to about the 9th century BC.

Tempio di Diana

The noon time sun was too hot for me to try to make it all the way to the Norman fortification ruins at the top of the mountain so I walked along the forested plateau towards a lookout area that provided an astounding view of the centre of Cefalu. The rock walls descended almost vertically down, and this vantage point allowed me to look almost straight down into the courtyard of the Norman Cathedral. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and the views over the turquoise coastline of Sicily were simply phenomenal. I sat down for a bit to rest and soak it all in.

Looking down at the Cathedral

Then I strolled along the lower fortification walls which cap off the plateau area just before the precipitous drop of the rock and caught a good look westwards of the town and the coastal mountains inland. I have traveled a fair bit in the last few years, but the beauty of Sicily is indeed quite overwhelming.

Coastline east of Cefalu

The heat had made me thirsty and I figured it was time to head back into town to sit down in some patio and take in some fluids. Naturally, the walk down was much quicker than the climb up and within about 25 minutes I had reached the old town. It was the middle of the afternoon and everything was shut down now, typical siesta-style. I did find a local bar that served me an ice-cold limonata (actually two or three since I was absolutely parched) and I was listening to some Australian tourists talking loudly at the next table. There seemed to be quite a few Aussies in this town, along with some German and French tourists. Definitely not too many North American travelers though…

Normal gate on top of the fortifications

After quenching my thirst I took a stroll along the waterfront promenade in the modern portion of Cefalu. Dozens of street vendors, mostly of North African background, had set up tables to sell belts, inexpensive jewelry, electronic gadgets and all sorts of other knick-knacks. People were lounging along the long sandy beach in the new part of this town and it certainly looked like a great place for some sun-worshipping.

Medieval soldiers for sale in Cefalu

I felt a little exhausted from all the hiking in the hot sun and decided to head back to Milazzo and caught a train back. I really enjoyed the two hour train ride, all the windows were open and the warm air was blowing through my train compartment. In my head I was still trying to process all the beautiful images that I had seen in this exquisite historic town.

Cefalu – a medieval masterpiece

After a quiet evening and a stroll along the Lungomare (to watch the ritual of the passegiata, the daily stroll along the waterfront), I had a nice relaxing evening in the apartment, reading, sitting on the balcony, and looking forward to my final discoveries of Milazzo and its surrounding areas tomorrow.

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