The popular seaside town of Cefalu is situated just an hour east of Palermo, nestled between a postcard perfect, horse-shoe bay and the looming, limestone cliff-face of La Rocca.
As well as its easily accessible location and stunning natural beauty, visitors will find a range of things to do in Cefalu that cater to a variety of tastes. No more bickering about whether the base for your Sicilian holiday should prioritise cultural sights, beach activities, shopping experiences or wining and dining – Cefalu has it all.
Culture vultures will enjoy wandering around the quaint, medieval streets and exploring the famous Norman cathedral; sun worshippers can lounge on the sand at Cefalu beach or take part in water-sports out in the beautiful blue; and shopaholics can indulge to their heart’s content amongst the independent stores that line the streets of the town.
Whether travelling as a couple, a group or as a family, Cefalu offers a diverse array of experiences guaranteed to keep everyone happy.
Cefalu’s history dates back to the times of Ancient Greece but the buildings were constructed during the reign of the Norman King, Roger II. Wander the narrow streets of the medieval centre to uncover architectural treasures such as the grand cathedral or the medieval wash house, ‘lavatoio’. Feel yourself transported further back in time by climbing the towering La Rocca to visit ancient temple ruins looking out over panoramic views of the bay.
The Temple of Diana
For those who like to keep active on holiday, tackle the trek up La Rocca, the spectacular cliff that the Phoenicians nicknamed the Promontory of Hercules. The significance of this moniker becomes abundantly clear as you reach the summit where a view worthy of the Ancient gods spreads out before you. As well as the vista of the Cefalu coast and the town below, you will find the ruined walls of a Saracen fortress and the remains of the Temple of Diana, an Ancient Greek tribute to the goddess Diana.
The magnificent Cefalu cathedral is the crowned glory of Cefalu attractions and renowned for being one of the most impressive Roman Catholic churches in southern Europe. Completed in the year 1150 or thereabouts, the imposing sand-coloured structure, with its twin bell towers and palm-lined square, is fashioned in the style known as ‘Sicilian Romanesque’. However, there is a distinct Gothic ambience to the building as well as traditional Byzantine mosaics decorating the walls. Be aware that the cathedral closes from 1pm to around 4pm.
The Mandralisca Museum
Considered by many to be one of the most important museums in Sicily, the Museo Mandralisca is home to a fascinating exhibition of artefacts accumulated by a 19th century collector. Archaeological finds, an assortment of seashells and an extensive art collection are some of the highlights.
The Madonie Mountains
One of the must-do excursions from Cefalu is a visit to the scenic Madonie Mountain Park. This protected nature reserve consists of rugged peaks and numerous mountain towns and villages that make for a charming visit. More than 2,600 different plant species flourish throughout the park with spring and autumn offering particularly colourful walks and trails.
This park is one of the best places to come face-to-face with Mother Nature in Sicily. There are hiking routes suitable for abilities whilst horse-back riding, mountain-biking and, during the colder months, skiing, are popular recreational activities.
One of the more picturesque of the traditional mountain towns scattered through the Madonie Park, Castelbuono also boasts an impressive castle, complete with underground dungeons and a tunnel that stretches to the town’s church. The Capella Palatina chapel is also worth a look with its resplendent décor and holy relics. Also look for the Restaurant 'Nangalarruni' awarded by 'Gambero Rosso' the Italian 'Guide Michelin'.
The Aeolian Islands
The primordial, volcanic landscape of the Aeolian Islands, jutting out from the sea off the north coast of Sicily, is a popular tourist attraction in this region. Day trips from Cefalu are possible – visit one of the tour operators in town to book a place on a mini island-hopping trip or to a specific destination.
Ferry crossings take from 1.5 to 4.5 hours and run during the summer season from June to September. Visit Stromboli and witness the minor eruptions at dusk, lighting up the darkening sky, or wallow in the mud baths of Vulcano. Alternatively, take a trip to the biggest and liveliest island, Lipari, and stay overnight on its rugged, rocky shores.
Expect Cefalu food to showcase the best of Sicilian cooking. The mild Mediterranean climate provides the perfect conditions for a wide range of delectable fresh produce – think creamy cheeses, pasta and seafood. Look out too for specialities such as Caponata, Pasta alle Sarde, Pasta alla Norma, an aubergine salad and sfincione, a local version of pizza.
Ristorante La Brace is famed for its romantic yet family-friendly atmosphere and excellent service whilst Locanda del Marinaio comes highly recommended and offers al fresco dining in the cobbled streets outside.
With Cefalu as the base for your holiday, you can take advantage of many of the attractions of central Sicily and the north coast. Here at Sicily4U we have a range of self-catered villas and apartments that allow you to enjoy all the comforts of home whilst experiencing Sicilian life as a local.
From villas with mountain views and private swimming pools to centrally located apartments just a stone’s throw from the sandy beachfront, we are confident we can help you find your dream holiday home.
Flights to Cefalu are best booked to Palermo, an hour’s drive away. Direct flights connect Palermo with international airports as well as those from mainland Italy. Buses and an hourly train connect Palermo with Cefalu – driving is not recommended unless you have organised this in advance and noted the parking information for your accommodation. We are happy to assist with car rental advice prior to and during your stay in Cefalu – see our getting around Sicily section for more details.
Local buses link Cefalu with nearby towns and in the summer the hydrofoil service runs to the islands and other destinations on the northern coast.