A guide to Cefalù in Sicily
I’ve never met a part of Sicily I didn’t like!
Every city, region and country has a stereotype. Some characteristics for which they are just synonymous with – truth or not. When many people think or hear Sicily, some words that come to mind include arancino, cannolo siciliano, grantita & brioche, beach, mafia. In some way or another, each of these hold some of truth in the eclectic dynamic of Sicily..
The mafia stronghold can be felt in the pot holes on the roads and in the rubbish that lines the freeway from Palermo to Cefalu.I sit in the car and look to my right – rubbish is strewn along the road for kilometres.
But I look to my left and see the blue waters of this magical island coast. ‘Blue waters’ sounds so much like any others but these ones mesmerise and tease you. You find it hard to look away. The shades are many and on a summer’s day where the sky is clear, it is just picture perfect. I continue to travel around Italy, the world, but to Sicily I just keep coming back! The contradictions, if anything, are what give this place character.
This is probably my 10th time here and this time I chose Cefalu!
Cefalu is located in the central north part of Italy’s biggest island, about 1.5 hours drive east of Palermo and has a population of around 20,000.Earlier this year, the area’s vegetation was devastated by a fire and they are still recovering. Tourism here, like in many parts of Italy, is very important. And it’s starting to feature more and more on Italy travel lists because of its unspoiled beaches, traditional Mediterranean cuisine and stunningly preserved old town.
Walk around the old town & catch a sunset
Cefalù town is small, yet pretty with the cathedral in Piazza Duomo its centerpiece. It dates back to the early 1100s in Norman style architecture. It’s all porticoes, arches and a couple of towers and is quite striking with its sandstone colouring.
The main drag in town is full of shops and along the water there are restaurants and bars (many of which cater only to tourists unfortunately and don’t offer an authentic Sicilian offering).
From arancini (fried rice balls) to schiacciata or sfincione, Sicily is a street food lover’s paradise! Sfincione is this region’s version of pizza or focaccia and appparently the Sicilians have been baking the stuff since about the mid 1800s! The one I tried at Antica Focacceria Sapori Siciliani in Cefalù old town had caremelised onion, anchovies, baked ricotta and topped with breadcrumbs. Needless to say, I didn’t leave a crumb!Dine under the stars
Eating outdoors or along the water in Cefalù isn’t hard. Many places in the old town have a beachfront terrace, but like I said, many cater only to tourists. If you see a menu in about 12 different languages, run the other way. I spoke to some hotel staff, taxi drivers and a couple of shopkeepers in the town to see where they go to eat and here’s where I enjoyed my meals:
Le Chat Noir
For no fuss, rustic Sicilian cuisine, this place doesn’t disappoint. Chat Noir offers streetside dining, a large indoor area and even a small courtyard. The classics like sarde beccafico (a Palermo dish of two pan-fried sardines sandwiched together with breadcrumbs, lemon zest and sometimes pine nuts and raisins) and eggplant parmigiana were my picks.Cortile Pepe
Cortile Pepe for me, was hard to beat. Toti Fiduccia the owner comes from a family of restaurateurs and opened this, his own restaurant a year ago. With a young Piedmontese chef at the helm, they dish up all the old Sicilian classics with a modern twist! Spaghetti with tomato extract, baked ricotta, eggplant and basil. A “white pasta alla Norma” and when I closed my eyes, it tasted like the traditional one!Aperitivo and wine
Sit on the modern bar stool and tables outdoors at Enoteca Rossorubino wine bar for a pre-dinner or even post drink. A long list of local, regional and international wines and at aperitivo they are served with a complimentary small snack selection (usually small mozzarellas, olives and salami).Treat your sweet tooth
Sicilians are renowned for their sweets – colourful marzipan creations, ricotta cannoli (ricotta anything!), cassata, granita or gelato filled brioche, you name it! The Duomo di Cefalù Bar & Pasticceria have a wide selection of freshly made sweets. Try a cannolo or a cassata al forno (like a baked cheesecake or ricotta pie filled with choc chips). At their outpost just next door (of the same name), try one of their many baked goods and biscuits like white choc hazelnut coated ones or a typical almond paste biscuit covered in Bronte pistacchio.Stay
Hotel Le Calette
This 4 star boutique resort is located about 20 minute walk from Cefalù town centre. The rooms are decked out with every modern touch and appliance you could think of (think touchpad lighting, electronic shutters and almost Nordic – clean lines with white and light wood design). The sea view rooms at Le Calette have a balcony appointed with sun beds. The little touches like your very own wicker beach bag in your room are what make you feel relaxed and at home. Spend your days at the pool with a view of those sparkling blue waters (most comfortable sun beds. Ever.), walk down to your own private beach club with white leather cabana style beds or take the free daily shuttle to a local beach club, where your sunbed and umbrella is included in your nightly rate. Breakfast and dinner is served in the garden overlooking the beach and lunch and bar snacks are available poolside. Signing off from Trastevere,