“Sicilia bedda” is dialect for “Sicilia bella”. Perhaps when you think of Sicily, you picture old ladies dressed in black shuffling across ancient cobblestone streets in villages surrounded by bleak and dry rocky hills. That was the image I had after seeing a couple Godfather films. My wife and I traveled there in April of 2012 before the heat and crowds of summer.
The images I had of Sicily were illusions and I was ready to experience a different reality. I found a cheapo flight (its a little more than an hour) from Rome to Palermo . We couldn’t believe we got all our bags on with little extra charge. It must have been because Gianni our surrogate nephew and gate agent for Delta helped us check in.
There is a rail spur at the airport that connects to Palermo’s main rail station. Considering our load of bags and the pitfalls of navigating a large city, I had decided to sidestep Palermo. After wrestling the bags on and off the airport train and running to get the connecting train to Cefalu, a couple of fellow travelers helped us heft the bags on board. We found seats on the steps at the end of our car. Yikes! that wasn’t fun.
Cefalu is a picturesque medieval town of about 14,000. Its a well known and well trod tourist destination, but it was just the right size and place for our first Sicilian stop. We found a sea view studio a few steps from the old town center.
La Rocca, a massive rocky hill of over 900 feet, towers over Cefalu. I climbed it a couple of times. It is a perfect place to escape the more crowded town. Most folks lack the ambition or motivation for such a climb. The views of the town, sea and coastline are stunning. Remnants of a Norman citadel cap the top and there is a Temple of Dianna ruin on the way up.
If the sights and atmosphere of Cefalu with its narrow lanes and beautiful piazzas charmed us, the same could not be said about the restaurant scene. We didn’t find one that really pleased us. We ate off Styrofoam plates with plastic silverware at Trip Advisor’s top rated restaurant. The owners were friendly, but I couldn’t help feeling that I was being hustled.
Lonely Planets’ Sicily guidebook warned me that the place was pretty touristy. We didn’t encounter any Americans, but
Germans were everywhere, large groups, small groups, couples and singles. What the Germans failed to do militarily, they have accomplished economically. Outside of the Germans we encountered a smattering of French and English folks.
The most outstanding landmark within Cefalu is the cathedral, a Norman construction with outstanding mosaics within. Like most Italian towns, the piazza outside is the main open space and a very pleasing site. Considering its charms and picturesque settings its no surprise that the director of Cinema Paradiso chose Cefalu to films some of its scenes.
A couple of days was plenty to see and explore Cefalu. At this point I rented a car and we were ready to explore the surrounding countryside.