Cefalú Things to Do

  • Things to Do
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  • Things to Do
    by brendareed
  • Things to Do
    by brendareed

Most Recent Things to Do in Cefalú

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    Walking through Cefalù

    by brendareed Written May 27, 2014

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    Walking through Cefalù is a pleasant outing. There are so many things to see and, on a day other than Sunday, shops to visit and eateries to dine at. The Piazza Duomo is the heart of the area with the cathedral standing at the head of it. The narrow streets are cobblestone so be careful and wear good sturdy shoes. While this is a pedestrian zone, there are cars that come by – mostly those that live within the area. Roads can be steep depending on where you are walking, but it is a great place to get a feel for small town Sicily – locals talking to one another, laundry hanging from the terraces, and beautiful old buildings with character.

    Along the coast is a beach that was being used by a few people even at the end of November and beside the beach was a wide walkway which seemed to attract tourists and locals alike. Vendors were lined up trying to sell their wares as mothers with babies pushed their strollers in the afternoon sun. Cefalù was a great place to spend the afternoon!

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    La Rocca – 12th century castle ruins

    by brendareed Written May 27, 2014

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    At the very top of La Rocca (the summit is 278 meters – or 912 feet) are the ruins of a 12th-13th century castle. Realizing that the safest place to put a castle is at the top of the hill, I still have to wonder how the people initially got up there to build it!

    We climbed up to the very top of La Rocca and found the castle ruins. Essentially it was just the outer walls and a few parts to the interior. But the views were worth the climb! We walked along the walls as far as we could on both sides. There were only a few signs but you could get a feel for the setting of the castle.

    The last part of the trail to the castle ruins is very rocky and steep. As long as you are careful, you should be safe around the walls – just don’t climb on them because the drop is a long way down! We followed the walls around the castle and it eventually brought us back to the place where we entered the castle ruins, forcing us to head back down the same trail we had just come up at. However, partially down the trail you can turn towards the Temple of Diana and the fortification.

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    La Rocca – Temple of Diana

    by brendareed Written May 27, 2014

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    The Temple of Diana is one of the lower structures to be seen on La Rocca. After passing through the gate of the fortifications, you can choose to head straight up to the temple – still a bit of a climb, but not as high up as the castle ruins. If you choose to go to the castle first, you can get to the temple on your way back down.

    The Temple of Diana is believed to date back to the 5th century BC where it was a sacred site. The columns in the cathedral down in Cefalù are thought to have been originally in this temple. Today, one can see the various rooms in the temple, which overlooks the city. There are several cisterns and ovens also nearby.

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    La Rocca – Megolithic stones

    by brendareed Written May 27, 2014

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    Near the fortification ruins and the Temple of Diana is a house-like structure that has stones dating back to the 9th century BC. The portal or doorway of this house is made with these massive megalithic stones, most likely found on La Rocca and used later for this structure. There are some signs nearby that can help explain what visitors are seeing.

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    La Rocca – Byzantine fortification ruins

    by brendareed Written May 27, 2014

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    I found the fortification ruins to be the most interesting. Along the edge of La Rocca, but not at the higher summit, and overlooking the city of Cefalù, there were just a few remains of the fort where guards would watch over the city. The castellated walls give it a fortress look and visitors can look down on the city. There is an arch in the middle of the wall where a bell used to be housed – rung to warn the citizens of Cefalù of approaching danger.

    There are enough walls and outlines of buildings between the upper fort and the gate house area to give one an idea of what it might have been like to be stationed at the fort.

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    La Rocca

    by brendareed Written May 27, 2014

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    When you are in Cefalù, you can’t miss La Rocca. It is that massive rock that dominates the city, making even the large Norman cathedral tiny next to it. La Rocca stands 278 m (912 feet) tall. At the top are several ruins from different time periods – the Temple of Diana from the 5th century BC, a fort believed to be from the Byzantine era, and at the very top a castle dating back to the 12-13th centuries. There is also a structure that has some megalithic stones in its portal that are believed to date back to the 9th century BC.

    The first thing you come to on the climb is the gate house of the old fort. After looking around, we headed up the steps towards a little building. A man was seated outside and he was responsible for keeping track of how many visitors go up La Rocca and where they were from. Since they lock the gates to La Rocca at night, his list ensures that everyone is accounted for at the end of the day.

    As you make your way up the hill towards the top of La Rocca, you will be given a choice of heading straight up to the castle ruin (which is what we did) or heading over to the Temple of Diana, which is located much lower than the summit. Ideally, if you have limited time (or limited desire to continue the climb to the top) you can simply head over to the temple and its nearby fortifications and be done with it.

    The views from the top of La Rocca are magnificent. We were there on a relatively clear day with the sun shining. From the top you can look down on the city of Cefalù, look out towards the Mediterranean Sea, and up and down the northern coast of Sicily.

    There is a herd of goats that live on La Rocca and you will see their dropping all over the place. I kept looking for the goats while there and it was only towards the end of my time up at the top that I found them. Listen for their bells! We heard the bells and, using my camera’s zoom lens, we were able to look at them from a far distance as they grazed and pranced on the other hill away from the trail.

    Lots of history on La Rocca – but to see it, you need to climb up to the top, which is not easy.

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    Mosaics in the Cathedral

    by brendareed Updated May 27, 2014

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    At the front of the cathedral displayed high on the apse is Christ Pantocrator holding an open book with Greek and Latin words stating “I am the Light of the World: he that followes me shall not walk in darkness.” The mosaic figure, along with the rest of the mosaics in the Cefalù, is considered to be some of the best preserved and earliest mosaics in Sicily. Commissioned by Sicily’s first king, Roger II, the mosaics were created when the cathedral was being built in the 1100s. These mosaics lend a Byzantine appearance and follow a careful design. It is believed that Roger II had planned for the entire nave of the cathedral to be covered with these mosaics similar to his chapel in Palermo, but he died before the work was completed.

    At the top of the apse is Christ Pantocrator with three layers of figures beneath. On the top row, immediately below Christ is Mary surrounded by four archangels holding loaves of bread which represent salvation. The angels are dressed as Byzantine nobility. The second and third rows are the twelve apostles, each in informal poses. The choir walls are lined with mosaics of prophets, saints, martyrs, and Greek patriarchs and theologians. Beneath the window in the apse states that the mosaics were completed in 1148, making them nearly 900 years old (that’s really strong glue!).

    The talent of the artists is evident by the tones and shades of the figures, the folds of their clothes and the coloring of their skin, showing highlights and shadows to create depth.

    The cathedral closes for a couple hours in the mid-day (a good time to climb La Rocca!). Hours are 0800-1300 and 1500-2000 daily.

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    Norman Cathedral

    by brendareed Written May 27, 2014

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    The cathedral was the primary reason I chose to come to Cefalù. The Duomo dates back to the Norman era and contains some of the best preserved mosaics in all of Sicily. So it was a no-brainer that I would stop here. It seemed larger than life in the middle of the pedestrian district of Cefalù, taller than many of the buildings that surround it. La Rocca stands behind it dominating the landscape.

    The building of the cathedral was begun by Roger II, the first king of Sicily, in 1131. He commissioned the artists to make the mosaics which it is so famous for and it is believed that his plan was for the entire nave to be covered in mosaics, similar to his Cappella Palatina in Palermo. However, Roger II died before the work was finished and the cathedral wasn’t completed until later.

    The façade of the cathedral has two rows of blind arcades and two large bell towers that are slightly different from each other. The nave has arches supported by marble columns that are believed to be from the Temple of Diana whose ruins are up on La Rocca. The wooden ceiling has painted beams and the stained glass windows are more modern in appearance. The interior used to have an updated Baroque look about it, but renovations removed all this to bring the cathedral back to its original Norman look.

    Of course, the mosaics are what your eyes are drawn to, high up on the apse and along the choir walls; the colorful tiles on golden background dominate the interior.

    There is a door on the northern aisle that our guide book said would lead to the cloister; unfortunately for us, the door was closed on the day we were there despite it being within the opening times.

    Entrance to the cathedral is free; however, please be respectful and remember that this is a house of worship. Proper dress is expected (no bare midriff, shoulders, or short shorts permitted). Be mindful of those who are visiting to pray – tour quietly and while photos are allowed, do not use your flash.

    The cathedral closes for a couple hours in the mid-day (a good time to climb La Rocca!). Hours are 0800-1300 and 1500-2000 daily.

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    La Rocca

    by betako3 Updated Feb 3, 2008

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    Once you climb above the roofline the view changes dramatically. The higher you climb, the better panorama of Cefalu you get. If you enlarge the photo you'll see the wide path made up of large steps meandering up the hill (the bottom left-hand corner). The path leads to the fortified entrance in the massive stone wall surrounding the hill, which used to protect the settlements and the castle above from attacks of invaders.

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    light a candle

    by domenicococozza Updated Aug 28, 2007

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    The cathedral at cefalu is exquisite. It is open to the public and if staying in the town or just visiting you must take a look.Commissioned by Ruggero 11, construction began in the 12th Century and was finished in the 13th. Byzantine mosaics in abundance. Dont forget though, ladies must cover their shoulders.

    cefalu cathedral christ pantocreator

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    La Rocca

    by betako3 Written Aug 23, 2007

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    Another adventage of visiting La Rocca off season (and Cefalu in general) is lack of crowds. We spent quite a few hours on the hill and within this period of time we met just a few other people, but mostly, we had the whole place to ourselves. This is one of the solitary views I captured with my camera, unspoiled by any wandering tourist.

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    La Rocca

    by betako3 Written Aug 23, 2007

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    It was February. When we were leaving Poland it was cold winter, snow covering the streets, a warm hat and gloves were a must. Italy was a little warmer, though we kept our winter jackets on and from time to time a pair of gloves and a hat too. Here in Cefalu we experienced summer and we even sported a T-shirt for the first time (and the only one) on this trip to Italy. What's more, on the hill we could see nature in full bloom, it was a feast to our greenery-hungry eyes.

    Flowers in February

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    La Rocca

    by betako3 Written Aug 23, 2007

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    We had some problems finding the right path beyond the temple of Diana, we just kept roughly along the wall until we came to the other side of the hill. The view was initially blocked by the wall, we only saw a hole through which we couldn't destinguish any details until we came up closer. And then we saw a land of fairy-tale...

    The view through the hole... ...and beyond it

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    elevenses

    by domenicococozza Written Aug 5, 2007

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    Near the main square in the centre of town there's a great little pasiceria where they make and sell great cannoli. Cant remember the name of the place but it gets packed so as long as you're near the main piazza you should see it.

    authentic sicilian cannoli

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    Visit Palermo

    by Rob&Giz Written Aug 17, 2006

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    From Cefalu you can take a train to Palermo which takes around 50 minutes. We recommend that you take the 'domestic' Sicilian train instead of the express trains from the mainland (as these are often delayed). Go through the Vucciria market and experience the hustle and bustle of a Palerman market! Piazza Marina is also worth a visit - the Banyan tree is quite impressive. The best way to see Palermo is just to walk around- but don't miss the Teatro Massimo and the Cathedrale. Make sure you try a Cannoli - ricotta filled biscuits which although very sweet (and rich) are absolutely yummy.

    Vucciria Market Cathedral

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