About Cefalù Beach
Although tourists seem increasingly to be waking up to the charm of its lovely sandy beach, Cefalù still seems to be something of a forgotten jewel on Sicily’s northern coast. An old fishing village with narrow, winding streets from medieval times and a splendid 12th-century cathedral, it possesses all the beauty and charm of the Mediterranean basin – as well as that excellent beach. The Oscar-winning film Cinema Paradiso, with its slightly nostalgic depiction of a bygone era, was shot in Cefalù – and not without reason. Something about the slower pace of life here does indeed recall an older, possibly gentler time.
Cefalù has a long and lovely beach with clean, golden sand, without doubt one of the best in Sicily. And it’s very easy to get to, just a short walk from the main road leading through town. It gets very crowded in the summer months, but not quite to the same extent as the beaches near Taormina, for instance. Public showers are available on the western side of the beach.
Beyond the beach:
Il Duomo, the cathedral built by the Norman king Roger II from 1131 onwards, is the dominant structure in the town, its two towers rising up well above the rest of the buildings. The exterior is well preserved, while the interior has been restored several times through the centuries. It is more gothic and Romanesque than Byzantine in character but still has impressive mosaics. A much more strenuous, yet rewarding, exercise is to climb up to the summit of the promontory above the town. It is steep, and it takes a good half hour, but the views of the coast and the sea from there are impressive. Besides, the walk will take you to the ruins of an old fortress and temple devoted to the goddess Diana from the fifth century BC. The Mandralisca Museum was founded by a local art collector who bequeathed his art treasures and extensive library to the town. It houses the Portrait of Unknown by Antonello da Messina, an extensive collection of shells, and a variety of objects d’art, among which is a Chinese puzzle in ivory.
The beach and the sea offer excellent opportunities for sunbathing, swimming and other water activities and so should keep most families happy. There are pedal boats for hire at the beach in Ogliastrillo, 4km (2.5 miles) west of Cefalù. Fishing is available everywhere. Walking in the hills to the south of town is another popular activity, and there are several gentle routes that can be enjoyed by kids.
High up in the Madonie mountains south of Cefalù, some 15km (9 miles) from the town, is the hillside sanctuary of Gibilmanna. Positioned 800m (2,625ft) above sea level, it is a pilgrimage destination with a church and a lovely forested area surrounding it. Combine a trip here with a trek in the mountains. Slightly further away (25km/15 miles) is the mountain village of Castelbuono, which has a 14th-century castle and other medieval architectural vestiges as well as steep, narrow streets and charming little piazzas. And of course, only 75km (45 miles) away is Palermo, with all its riches.