The town of Cefalù

At the base of a rock on the northern coast of Sicily, 70 km east of Palermo, lies the small medieval town of Cefalù, which is one of the favourite goals of both italian and international tourists on the island, not only for the beautiful beaches during summer, but also for its medieval “appeal” still well-preserved. The town is a net of little ups and downs full of shops selling original local handcrafts, within a scenery made of ancient buildings from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Strolling along the streets of Cefalù is a pleasant and charming experience (avoiding the rush hours), every corner hide a surprise, expecially for the visitor who is here for the first time. The real core of the town is the marvelous Piazza del Duomo with the Norman Arab Cathedral of the 12th century: every little street, narrow passage or steep steps seem to be leading there, in a labyrinth paved with beautiful stones, smoothed, one step after the other, by so many visitors through the centuries.

The Cathedral

The Cathedral of Cefalù was built during the 12th century by the illuminated Norman king Ruggero II, and in 2015 was included in the world heritage list by UNESCO together with the Norman arab sites of Palermo and Monreale. The majestic facade faces the large Piazza del Duomo and is characterized by two huge towers between which is a three arches portico sheltering the royal door, this one framed by a sumptuous marble decoration. The interiors of the cathedral might seem to be “nude” to those who have already visited The Palatine Chapel in Palermo or the Cathedral in Monreale, yet also in this case the golden mosaics representing the Christ Pantocrator, Angels and Saints are stunning. Adjacent to the Cathedral on the north side is the cloister, whose arches are sustained by little twin columns and capitals decorated with biblical subjects.

Facade of the Norman Arab Cathedral of Cefalù, 12th century.

Other places of interest

Along the Via Mandralisca, going downwards from the Piazza del Duomo, you will find the Mandralisca Museum, which hosts various interesting collections. Among the paintings is the worldwide famous “Portrait of man”, also known as “Unknown sailor”, by Antonello da Messina. Ancient greek vases and an important collection of shells are shown inside. In Via Vittorio Emanuele, going down a lava stone staircase called “’a Lumachella”, you will reach the ancient laundry from the 16th century: the noise of the water coming out of the cast iron mouths depicting 15 leonine heads, amplified by the lower level of the laundry, gives this environment an outdated atmosphere, while the freezing water flows into the tanks inside the laundry, slipping slowly to the sea through a small stone passage. On the top of the rock towering over Cefalù (270m ASL) are the ruins of an ancient medieval castle (u’ Castieddu), and a bit lower than this you find the Temple of Diana from the 5th century B.C.: obviously the high point of view offers a splendid panoramic sight.

ancient laundry-cefalu
Ancient laundry, Cefalù.


The beach of the Lido di Cefalù is by far the favourite by families with children or elder people, because it is only a few steps from the center and offers a large range of amenities. Lovers of sports like surfing or kite-surfing would better drive their car (or take a bus) to reach the Capo Playa beach, made of a mix of sand and little stones, several km long and usually windy. The Caldura Beach just a few minutes walking from the centre which has no shallow waters is also very nice, while Sant’Ambrogio Beach, far from the crowd and wild, is the right cup of tea for lonely spirits!

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