Every article I read about Palermo listed Cefalù as an essential day trip, so with friends visiting us, we decided to check it out. The town is is about 60km from Palermo and trains leave every hour from Palermo Centrale station costing €5.60 each way, so it’s simple to get there even without a car. The train journey itself is scenic. The tracks follow the coast past jagged hills and tiny villas, and the odd chemical plant.
On arrival, we climbed out of the train and followed the other passengers towards the town centre. Cefalù is a resort town, and It immediately felt more touristic than Palermo. The main streets were clean and well maintained, no piles of rubbish everywhere, and the houses too. Shops selling swimwear and handicrafts lined the route to the Piazza, where we found gaggles of school children and tourists hanging around the Cathedral.
Cefalù’s Norman Cathedral is part of the world heritage site linking Palermo and Monreale. It’s scenic from the outside, looming over the square full of cafes, but inside it’s a similar, but scaled back version of the one in Monreale. We had visited Monreale the day before so were, perhaps unfairly, unimpressed. If Cathedrals are your thing, go to Monreale instead.
Church visited, we stopped for a tasty but pricey lunch of melanzane, lasagna and cannelloni, before climbing up some steep back streets to see the other main historical site of the town - Le Rocca di Cefalù. Cefalù is overshadowed by this giant hill and naturally, given Sicily’s history of being invaded by anyone and everyone, has played an important part in its history. There is a €4 entry fee to climb the hill and set opening hours, but it is worth it. After climbing for twenty minutes or so, we reached the ruins of some houses behind a protective wall. Fearing invasion, the villagers of Cefalù retreated to the hill after the fall of the Roman Empire in Sicily, and before that, it was a site of a Megolithic temple, known today as the Temple of Diana, and still surprisingly well preserved.
Best of all however, were the views. From the old fortifications we had a Birdseye view of the town, but another twenty lung-busting minutes uphill brought us to the castle keep, where we could see the rest of Sicily stretching into the distance. It’s well worth the trek.
We descended and wandered some more through the streets. The boutiques gave way to seafood restaurants and bars, and then the sea. Apparently one of the main draws of Cefalù is its beaches, but it was incredibly windy and the high tide during our visit, so there was no beach to speak of during out visit.
After a few drinks and some rather tasty seafood, we hopped on the train back. Cefalù may not have the best Cathedral in the area, but for a relaxed atmosphere, good views, and a bracing hike, it’s a great day trip.