Cefalu (Cifalu) is situated on the northern coast of Sicily, about 75 kilometres from Palermo. It occupies a thin area between the sea and the large natural elevation climbing above the town. Today, visiting yachtsmen are better served in Porto Nuovo, a harbor constructed on the more sheltered eastern side of the headland. The town itself is one of the most picturesque in the whole of the island with its atmospheric fishermen's houses crowded around the old harbor, making it one of Sicily’s most popular tourist destinations.
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Location and climate
Cefalu is a medieval town built on the site of an ancient Sicilian and Greek settlement. Due to the Sicilian climate, the winters are warm and rainy, whereas the summers are hot and dry. The winds around the Aolian Islands during the summer tend be more frequent, although in calm weather sea breezes can be encountered from any direction blowing onto and between the islands.
History and sights
Known to be inhabited since the 9th century BC, Cefalu was founded by the Sikels. In the First Punic War it came under the Roman rule. The Byzantines saw the town thriving as the seat of the Greek bishop. In 858 it was conquered by the Arabs, and during the centuries that followed it was a part of the Emirate of Sicily. In 1063, the Normans conquered it, and in 1131 Roger II ordered that the town be reconstructed. Until mid-15th century it was under the feudal families until it became a possession of the Bishops of Cefalu. Cefalu became a part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. In Cefalu, you can see: the town cathedral, one of the greatest churches of southern Europe. It was one of the first Sicilian cathedrals built on the western model. The Temple of Diana is all that remains today of the ancient cultures. It is located on the mountain overlooking the town. Its portal reflects Greek and Roman construction, but the temple’s foundations date back to the 9th century BC. The cult of Hercules was worshiped here. Castelbuono is a mountain town some 25 kilometers from Cefalu is worth visiting for its castle, once owned by the Ventimiglia family.
Cefalu is an unexplored jewel of the Mediterranean. Its beauty lies in its renowned beach (seen in the Oscar-winning film “Cinema Paradiso”), narrow medieval streets and the cliff and the La Rocca, overlooking the town. Many cafes and restaurants can be found in Cefalo, as well as a couple of nightclubs, although the nightlife isn't very exciting. Cefalu Cathedral is, like most Norman architecture, massive and imposing, with its twin towers being visible from several miles offshore. Using transportation, it is possible to visit the shrine of Gibilmanna, set on a peak high above Cefalu, which contains an altar with a marvelous Virgin statue that restored sight and hearing to townsfolk on its consecration in 1760. Nowadays it is an essential pilgrimage center. Further up the coast is the spectacular mountain scenery of the Madonie National Park with its beautiful mountain villages of Petralia Sottana and Petralia Soprana.
How to arrive?
By car or bus
Buses run between Palermo and Cefalu. The trip lasts 90 minutes. Taxis and local buses are available.
During summer, several hydrofoils run to Palermo and the Aeolian Islands.