a splendid position and clearly visible from the road running north
from Palermo, Cefalù is a fishing village, now a small town,
perched between the sea and a craggy limestone promontory, landmarked
by a cathedral and a maze of narrow streets. Of Greek origin, its
current name right deriving from Greek Kephaloidion meaning head
or chief, it saw its heyday under Roger II who in 1131 decided to
initiate work on the cathedral.
a sweet tooth? – Pasticcerie: Pietro Serio’s, on via
Giuseppe Giglio, is regarded as the best confectionery-shop in Cefalù.
At Bar Duomo, on Piazza del Duomo, the best ice-creams can be found.
to eat? – For a good Pizza try the Porticciolo, on Via Di
Bordonaro. For traditional dishes go to La Vecchia Marina, on Via
Vittorio Emanuele, near the Medieval wash-house.
Ruggero – Cefalù’s main thoroughfare
overlies the ancient roman decumans which bisects the town on a
north-south axis. The two resulting haives have quite different
character: to the west lies the medieval quarter, a labyrinth of
narrow streets dotted with steps, arches and narrow passageways;
to the east, a network of perpendicular, regular streets. The difference
can probably be attributed to the two different social classes that
lived in the two quarters. The western half was occupied by the
common people while in the eastern side were the clergy and the
Corso starts from Piazza Garibaldi where was one of the four city
gateways. The piazza is overlooked by the Baroque Chiesa di Santa
Maria alla Catena, whose bell-tower incorporates remains from the
ancient megalithic town walls.
Magno – The legendary residence of King Roger, later
belonged to the Ventimiglia family, comprises two units dating from
different periods. The older, two-coloured side, built of lava and
gold-coloured stone, overlooking Via Amendola and graced by two
elegant mullioned windows, dates from the late 1200s. The adjoining
square tower, on the corner of Corso Ruggero, was built in the 1300s
and has a fine three-light window set into an elaborate Chiaramonte-style
arch. The palace, now completely restored, is used for temporary
along, on the right, stands the Chiesa del Purgatorio (formerly
Santo Stefano Protomartire’s), its front graced by an elegant
double stairway leading up to the Baroque portal. Beyond the entrance,
on the right, is the sarcophagus of Baron Mandralisca (see museum
of the same name). Towards the end, the street opens out into Piazza
del Duomo, overshadowed by the cathedral enclosed with ranges of
splendid palazzi: Palazzo Piraino (on the corner of Corso Ruggero)
with its late-1500’s portal, the Medieval Palazzo Maria, with
a Gothic portal, and possibly once a royal residence, and, left
of the cathedral, the Palazzo Vescovile (Bishop’s Palace)
dating from the 17th century.
– The Romanesque cathedral is built of a gold-coloured stone
that, set back behind a series of palm trees, appears to merge with
the limestone hillside called La Rocca rising behind. The edifice
was built between 1131 and 1240 at King Roger II’s behest
following a vow he made when on the point of being shiprecked when
returning from Naples. It is more evidently Norman than its counterpart
in Palermo, notably in the Moorish style of the façade framed
by two towers and in the upper apse flanked by smaller ones. The
façade, completed in 1204, is divided into two storeys by
a portico which was rebuilt in the 15th century by Lombard architect
Ambrogio da Como. The upper section is finely ornamented with blind
arcading. The twin towers, built on a square plan, rise through
levels with single and two-light openings that culminate in crenellations.
Below the portico, is the central Porta dei Re, the ancient main
entrance to the building.
– Entrance from the right side of the church. The church has
a latin cross floorplan divided into three naves by columns bearing
fine capitals carved in the Sicilian-Norman style. The chancel is
adorned with wonderful mosaics, in a spectacular array of colours
on a gold background. The eye is immediately attracted to the huge
majestic image of the Christ Pantocrator gazing down from the apse,
his right hand raised in benediction, his left holding a sacred
scroll inscribed with text from St. John’s Gospel (Chapter
8, verse 12): “I am the light of the world; he who followeth
me shall not walk in darkness, but shall gave the light of life”.
on three different levels, the Virgin attended by four Archangels
and the Twelve Apostles are imbued with sensitivity and gentleness
of a kind far removed from the more typical wooden face-on portrayals
normally associated with Byzantine art. On the side-walls are other
mosaics from the late-1200s depicting prophets, the saints and the
partriarchs. The angels in the vault date from the same period.
To the right of the choir is the old bishop’s throne and,
on the left, the royal marble and mosaic throne (currently under
restoration). The cloister, that has been closed for years, preserves
columns and capitals in the same style as Monreale’s.
the end of Corso Ruggero, turn right to Piazza Crispi, where is
the Chiesa dell’Idria, flanked by the Bastione di Capo Marchiafava,
where the view spans a large stretch of coastline. Nearby, along
Via Porpora, behind Via Giudecca, lie a tower with a postern (an
opening that allowed only one person to pass at a time) and remains
of ancient fortifications. Climb back up and along Via Ortolano
di Bordonaro to Piazza Marina. From here, Via Vittorio Emanuele
leads past Porta Pescara, which stands immediately off to the right
– the only surviving of the four medieval city gateways. It
is currently used to display a collection of fishing equipment.
little further on is the cosy Via Mandralisca leading to the museum
of the same name. Set into the paving (at the end, near Piazza del
Duomo) is Cefalù’s coat of arms: three fishes with
a loaf of bread, all symbols of Christianity (the fish being an
acronym of the word Christ), while also referring to the town’s
Mandralisca – The museum was founded at the request
of one of Cefalù’s most generous benefactors, Baron
Enrico Piraino di Mandralisca, a 1900’s art collectot who
bequeathed his art treasures and extensive library (more than 6,000
books, among which are many 1500’s pieces). The museum holds
a collection of coins and medals; a series of paintings among which
is the beautiful Portrait of Unknown by Antonello da Messina around
1470; archaeological relics mostly from Lipari, among which is an
unusual bell-shaped Krater illustrating a tuna seller (4th century
BC); a changing selection of molluscs taken from an extensive collection
of some 2,000, and a variety of objects d’art, among which
is a Chinese puzzle in ivory.
to Via Vittorio Emanuele. A little further along, on the right,
is the medieval wash-house, that is referred to as ‘u ciumi,
used by the town’s womenfolk until comparatively recently.
Rocca – It takes about 20 minutes to reach the Tempio
di Diana and another 40 to get to the top. A path leads uphill from
Corso Ruggero and Via dei Saraceni to the top of the promontory.
The first stretch of the trail leads past the ancient crenellated
walls before rising steeply; particularly tiring in the midday heat
of summer, it is best tackled in the early morning or at dusk. From
the top extends a wonderful view ranging from Capo d’Orlando
to Palermo. Below, to the east, the town is protected by the promontory
marked by a lookout tower, the Torre Caldura, with only few remains
surviving. In particularly clear days the Aeolian Islands are clearly
visible. Finds on this rocky outcrop confirm it to have accommodated
the earliest settlements in the area with evidence from different
periods in history including the ruins of an ancient Greek megalithic
building, known as Tempio di Diana. At the top, are remnants of
a castle dating from between the 12th-13th century, recently restored.
INLAND 59km round trip
short circuit includes a climb up to the Santuario di Gibilmanna,
on the slopes of Pizzo Sant’Angelo along a panoramic road.
From Cefalù, follow signs for the Santuario di Gibilmanna.
di Gibilmanna – The shrine dedicated to the Virgin
is set amidst oak and walnut woods at some 800m a.s.l. Its name
refers (from Arabic Jabel meaning ‘mountain’) to its
location atop a mount, while the second part relates to the tradition,
now obsolete, of making manna. Of ancient origin – it is supposed
to have been one of the six Benedictine communities or coenobites
founded at the behest of Gregory the Great in the 6th century –,
it passed to the Capuchin Friars Minor in 1535. The present building
is the result of numerous changes, above all in the Baroque period.
The façade was rebuilt in 1907. The Santuario is a destination
of pilgrims on 8 September, the Virgin’s Day. Inside, the
Cappella della Madonna (1625) preserves an 11th century Byzantine
fresco depicting the Virgin and Child dating from an earlier Benedictine
building, and a statue of the Virgin, possibly the work of Antonello
Gagina, set into an ornamented baroque altar.
building next to the convent, once used as a stable and guest-rooms,
was converted into an interesting Museum dedicated to the life and
culture of the Capuchin Friars of the Demone Valley. On display
are 1600’s-1700’s sacred vestments, paintings, tools
(the community was completely self-sufficient), objects worked from
base materials such as wood, tin and wax, as was the custom for
this order. Of particular interest are a polyptych by Frà
Feliciano (at the time he was Domenico Guargena), a 1500’s
alabaster rosary belonging to Frà Giuliano da Placia and
a small 1700’s reed organ. The catacombs contain the reliquaries
in painted tin or wood made by the friasrs.
– Isnello is a little holiday resort, a starting-point for
excursions on foot through the surrounding area. It occupies a fine
position clinging to the rock in the middle of a gorge surrounded
by high limestone walls. Its narrow streets reveal a typical medieval
back towards the Santuario, at the junction (signposted for Piano
delle Fate) turn left along another panoramic road, leading through
the villages of Gratteri, whose centre retains a medieval feel,
and Lascari, and then continues on down to the coast and Cefalù.
Campofelice Di Fitalia
Campofelice Di Roccella
Castelnuovo Di Sicilia
Castronovo Di Sicilia
Isola Delle Femmine
Piana Degli Albanesi
San Giuseppe Iato
San Mauro Castelverde
Santa Cristina Gela
Ventimiglia Di Sicilia
Bosco Della Ficuzza
San Martino Delle Scale
Scavi Del Monte Jato
Scivoletto e Michelin Italia. Le foto sono di proprietà
dei rispettivi autori. Ogni riproduzione non autorizzata verrà
perseguita a norma di legge.
- buy on line
Guide of Sicily
italiano | in