Cefalù is one of the most visited places in Sicily. Its tiny size does not keep thousands of tourists from visiting it every day during the summer months.
The truth is that at first, I didn’t want to spend a day of our Sicily road trip in Cefalù, because I thought that in the middle of summer the crowd would not let me enjoy the city. However, we did not only manage to dodge the masses, but we also discovered secret corners where we could get lost and be by ourselves.
Keep in mind that one day in Cefalù is enough to visit this small city in detail. In fact, we did not even spend a night here, since the prices are extremely high compared to less touristy areas.
WHERE TO PARK IN CEFALÙ
If you arrive in Cefalù by car, it will be good to plan where you are going to park, since it is not an easy task here. Due to the small size of the city, parking is limited in its center except for several private parkings.
If you want to park for free I advise you to do it on the outskirts of the city, in the area that we did (See details on the map).
From here, you can walk the entire Lungomare Giuseppe Giardina seafront to reach the center. In addition, you will see how many people go early to the beach in order to get a spot, and how it is better to look for alternative beaches than going to the crowded beach of Cefalù during the summertime. We’ll talk about that later.
Top things to do in Cefalù in one day
Cefalú is a pretty small town, so one day should be enough time to visit it. In our case we started exploring the surroundings of Cefalù first, ending up visiting the historical center of the village.
If you visit Cefalù, the first thing I recommend is wearing good footwear because to reach the best views of the so-called Norman Citadel, there will be a steep and rocky terrain.
To get a panoramic view from where you can see the whole city you need to reach the Rocca. From there you can make a great idea of how Cefalú is a small fishing village trapped between the Tyrrhenian Sea and this calcareous rock of 270 meters high.
My recommendation is that the first thing you do when you get to Cefalù, early in the morning, is going up to La Rocca; especially if you visit Sicily in summer as temperatures increase at midday.
In any case, although the path is not easy and you have to climb 278 steps carved into the Rocca under the scorching Sicilian sun, you will get rewarding views and you will immediately understand the structure of the city. It will also be a good way to burn all those tasty Pizze and Cannoli 😉
TEMPLE OF DIANA
Halfway up the Rocca is the Temple of Diana. A temple created to worship the goddess of water and the moon. It is believed that this megalithic monument was built during the ninth century BC. C, being the only pre-classic era monument of Sicily.
Do not expect too much from this temple. If you did not see any signal about the temple you would think it is any abandoned old construction. And it is a shame how ruined it is.
After another half an hour of ascent, we can find the ruins of the Norman Castle. This fortification was built to protect the city from possible attacks. It also offers a 360º view that uncovers a new view of the surroundings.
From there we could see the Nuevo Puerto Presidiana and enjoy the turquoise colour changes of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
We also discovered the Promontory of Torre Caldura, and the lookout tower located on the cape Caldura, dating from the 16th century.
And of course we admired the shape of a Latin cross of the Cathedral of Cefalù, the main monument of the city.
However, what we liked most about going up to La Rocca was discovering an alternative site to the crowded main beach of Cefalù.
If you look at the last image, the colorful of the bay on the left is nothing other than umbrellas that rival for having their own places in the sand . However, as the first thing we did in Cefalú was going up to La Rocca, from there we found the so-called Arrecife de Giudecca, where we could enjoy the sea almost for ourselves.
THE FIRE OF CEFALÚ
Also, climbing La Rocca we found part of the most recent sad history of Cefalù. On the upper left side of the last image you can see the mounts of Cefalù. These unfortunately burned in a fire on June 16, 2016. Practically 1 month before our visit to Cefalù.
It was a shame to see all the charred black mounts. But the worst thing is not only that there will have to pass more than 100 years to return to the previous state, but as they told us, the fire was caused by the mafia when the town hall withdrew the ranger concession to the private company that managed this service.
This fact made us see the mafia not only as gangsters stories of the past, but something that unfortunately is still present and that we would see throughout the trip in other areas like waste disposal service, taxes, etc.
Top attraction in Old town cefalù
Once you descend La Rocca, I encourage you to explore the medieval old town that stands out for its cobblestone streets.
The main artery -and where most trade is done- is the Corso Ruggero, which marked the limit of the medieval city. However, do not follow it all the way. Get lost, look for solitary alleys and move to another century, when Cefalù was Greek, Roman, Arab or Norman.
MEDIEVAL LAundry “FIUME CEFALINO”
The access to the medieval laundry “Fiume Cefalino” is located in Via Vittorio Emanuele. It is a laundry that -although it is not known when it was built- is attributed to Medieval times. I could not miss it in our post about things to do in Cefalù in a day.
This laundry located at the mouth of the Cefalino creek was carved directly in the volcanic stone of the place. In fact, to get to it you will have to go down a stone staircase.
Several restorations throughout history have made it possible to preserve it in such a way that it is one of the most visited places in Cefalù. In the last remodeling in the 19th century, bronze lion heads were added to each of the pipes that supplied the lavatory.
Later the water is channeled and carried to the sea through a cleft that opens in the medieval wall that still is raised in Cefalù and that leads to the port.
DUOMO DI CEFALÚ
With no doubt, Duomo di Cefalù is the most important thing you must visit in Cefalù in a day. Not all fishing villages can have a cathedral, but less from such an early period. The cathedral of Cefalù (1131) was founded even before Palermo’s (1184).
The story behind this cathedral goes back to the time when the King of Sicily Ruggero II faced a seastorm in the journey from Naples to Palermo. The King, thinking that he was going to die, promised the savior that if he arrived safely on land, he would build a cathedral in his honor wherever he arrived. On disembarking at Cefalù, the king kept his promise and soon afterwards the construction work began.
The highlight of the cathedral are the rectangular towers that give an aspect of a Norman fortress. Inside, the Byzantine mosaic of the Christ Pantocrator with Arabic-Norman characters stands out; Blonde hair (Norman) and thick dark beard (Arabic).
Since 2015 it is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO as part of the Arab-Norman route of Palermo, Monreale and Cefalù. During the summer months, the visiting hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
ALTERNATIVE to CEFALù BEACH – GIUDECCA REEF
Taking a bath in the Tyrrhenian Sea is something you must do in Cefalù.
After lunch, as we did not want to go to the main beach of Cefalù, we went to look for an access point to the Giudecca Reef, which we had discovered from La Rocca.
On the map I marked the postern through where we descended to the reef, as it is not easy to find. We went across the oldest streets we had seen Cefalù. Without a doubt, this area is the most historic and least reformed of the town. To get to the sea you have to literally cross the medieval wall that appears in the movie Cinema Paradiso.
I must say that the reef is nothing more than a volcanic rock terrain that has formed impossible merging into the sea. The difficulty of the access makes you find a place of peace and tranquility and it is even much closer to the historic center than the beach of Cefalù.
Even though it seems impossible in such a crowded area as Cefalù during summertime, you’ll be alone. However, privacy is not guaranteed as the Norman wall turned into houses has a view of this area.
Although there is no fine sand where you can lie down, the place can not be more suitable for diving. So do not forget your googles.
From this area you can see the restaurant Al Faro, where we previously had lunch.
Where to eat in cefalù
The lunch we had the day we spent in Cefalù was at the restaurant called Al Faro. We found it by chance, while we were looking for an access to the Giudecca Reef.
The restaurant had a terrace right on the cliff that overlooked the Giudecca Reef, on the street with the same name and it was located at the foot of the Cefalù Lighthouse.
In this “Ristorante”, as in most of Sicilian restaurants, the typical dish was pasta with seafood or fish. However luckily for me there was also a veggie option.
We also enjoyed our first of many mezzi litri di bianco della casa.
Another gastronomic delight that we tried in Cefalú was at the cathedral square. It is a pastry and ice cream shop called Duomo Gelatieri located at the corner of Corso Ruggero street.
Before saying goodbye to Cefalù, we went back there to buy a few cannoli and they proved to be the best ones of the trip. The riccota cream, the crunchy outside and the pistachio pieces were absolutely delicious.
accommodation in cefalù
We did not stay in Cefalù, since prices skyrocket during summertime following the high demand.
The best we found in terms of quality price and located in a good area is this apartment.
If you are looking for something cheaper, you can look at the rooms of this accommodation.
If you want to save even more you can find some hotels further away from the center that cost below € 50. As Cefalù is small you will not have problems getting from one place to another quickly.
If the three options that we proposed do not convince you, you can always look for other accommodations in Cefalù from here.
If you book your hotel using our Booking links, we will get a small fee without affecting the price paid by the reader. This way you can help us to continue with this project.
How to get to Cefalú
If you are traveling Sicily by car, Cefalù is about an hour from Palermo by the E90 highway that runs through the north of the island.
We only spent a day in Cefalù, but we didn’t spend a night there since apart from being expensive, the next day in the early hours we would take a ferry to Stromboli from Milazzo.
If you are heading east at sunset time, I suggest that instead of following the E90 road, try to take a section of the SS113. This road goes along the coast, simply separated from the sea by the train tracks.
Suddenly a train passed and the scene was perfect to close our day in Cefalù.