Tuesday morning's breakfast found us in collective quorum on making today's touring a bit less hurried in nature. We opted for a day as urbanites in the seaside town of Cefalù, a fairly short drive east from Castellammare.
In today's Italy, Cefalù is a favorite beach vacation destination, as well as one of a handful of towns with a special designation for their cultural, historic, and artistic offerings. Cefalù guards its origins fiercely, though, and no one is quite sure of just when this community first appeared on history's map.
Historians do note, however, that Cefalù is mentioned admirably by Pliny and Ptelomy (remember those names from world history?), and most likely was established towards the end of the 5th century BC. Yep, it's old. And like most of Sicily, it enjoyed coerced cohabitation under various rules including Greek, Byzantine, Roman, and Arab.
We managed to find parking not too far from the centro storico (historic center), which is always a coup in a larger Italian town, and began wandering the narrow streets. In some ways similar to what we'd found in Erice, the flavor here is different than mainland Italy: buildings are mutedly stoic, streets are rock-cobbled in sometimes precise, sometimes hap-hazard ways, many of the narrow iron balconies sport a sun shroud striped in primary colors.
And jewelry --- oh, be still my heart! The vibrant coral used traditionally in this area reminded me of the poppies in Tuscany -- deep, red-orange hues that appear to be lit from within. Surrounded in gold or silver, ready to adorn, the pieces were striking. It was likewise with the luscious organic shapes of the pearls I saw in many a window - rich orbs of shimmery effervescent whites that surely left Posiden jealous of their taking!
The increasing growls of our stomachs resulted in group vote to find lunch before we continued trekking the town. A rather circuitous route taken, we finally ended up along the sparkling beachside and dined on pizza and other delicacies.
Unable to resist the allure of the water, I ran down to the beach while we awaited our order, slipped off my sandals, and wiggled my toes in the Mediterrean blue. Totally delightful, but oh how I wanted to dive in!
As it is a well-known fact whilst traveling in Italy, vino is almost a requirement with ones lunch. So, too, is dolce...especially in Sicily, the land known for her sweet delicacies!
We opted for a nearby gelateria, but when Marty and I peered in, we realized we'd not yet had the snowy sweet Sicilian version of a Slurpee called granita -- two granite di limone, per favore!
While we slurped and oooh-ed over our icy treats, Allesandro stepped out with the Sicilian rendition of an ice-cream sandwich, or as I called it -- the OMG!
We'd never seen these creations on the mainland of Italy, so score another for these ingenious Sicilians. Simply take a sweet bread roll, slice it open sandwich style, pick out a couple -- or three -- gelato flavors, and voila... lusciousness in your hand. Just ask Allesandro.
What better way to conclude a good lunch and scrumptious dessert than with a visit to a 10th century Norman Romanesque duomo? We thought so, too.
Built in 1131 by King Roger II as a means of giving God thanks for his survial of a storm at sea, this cathedral is reknown for its Byzantine mosaics. In fact, the spectacular one decorating the main aspe is considered the finest example of its kind in all of Italy.
The awe-factor of this duomo is secure, even in this modern day, and we were among just an few other visitors who quietly took in the serene but majestic personality of this place.
Good thing we had fortified ourselves earlier in such a generous gastronomical way because a long hike, unbeknownst to us, awaited.
Cefalù derives her name from the Greek word for "head", based upon the pinnicle of which this town is built upon and the very large rock, or rocca, that watches over her.
This rocca is steeped in history, and as far back as 1000 BC has been a bastian of safety and importance.
We'd seen the signs pointing to the path that lead to the old castle ruins up on the rock, and of course it was decided we needed to see that. What we didn't realize was that much more lay beyond the somewhat strenuous uphill trek to the ruins, and of course -- if you can go up, then go up! And thus we did --
It was hot, dusty, and at times difficult -- especially when a certain person (ah-hem) wore "urbanite stolling clothes", but oh, was it worth it! We were treated to vistas that only the raptor would be privy to otherwise. The panoramas were stunning as we looked out over the jagged, rough-hewn edges of this rock that would definitely give pause to anyone considering an attack.
We trod around ruins of the old township of Cefalù, replete with all the amenities needed to sustain a comfortable life on high, safe from invaders. We walked on pathways where once upon a time soldiers had marched and stood watch for maurading pirates sailing in from afar. We listened to the wind blow through pines as lizards scampered across fallen hewn stone that had once connected and held purpose. We gazed, lost in thought.
Incredibly so, we also encountered the remains of those who had inhabitated this rock some 1000 years before Christ. An ancient megalithic temple built to honor Diana still stands, though in a ruinous state, but still intact enough that one can enter, stand, touch, and connect with the very souls who built this structure.
It surprised me that I was the only one there for a period of time. Of course, there were not many at all climbing this path other than our small group, but still it amazed me to be so free to interact with this piece of ancient.
The doorways were small; I suppose so were the people of that day? I ran my hands over the chisled stone, still stacked as the hands of 3000 years ago placed them. I gently stroked the ages worn rock of the door steps, imaging those who'd set foot there so often as to wear this stone away.
As I marveled at cut outs in the wall, pondering their purpose, I peered through a door that led to what I thought were crumbled ruins of walls. My delight was audible when I looked just beyond and saw the inarguable shape of what had been the alter.
By that time, I'd found Marty and beckoned him over, as well as subjected him to my excited ramblings at this discovery!
Like mountain goats, we plowed and plundered our way to the pinnicle of the rock. Fortunately, our reward was less goat-like and more dream-like as we enjoyed arial views of the spectacular coast of northern Sicily.
The views were incredibly beautiful and a fortuitous treat spread out before us. Yet another joy of travel - the unexpected gifts of discovery!
The afternoon was slipping away -- time to descend the trail, now gently blanketed by the amber fall sunlight, and make our way back to our temporary home of Castellammare del Golfo.
After washing off the day's dust, Marty and I took a slow passeggiata along the harbor of Castellemmare. We took in the normal evening events of the ritual passeggiata, but were also privy to the after-party of a local wedding. An additional treat to this day already chock full of them.
Another Sicilian sun-kissed day concluded with a spectacular meal at a nearby restaurant called Mirkos. The owner, who spoke no English, gifted us with some of his time as we raved over the quality and flavor of his fresh, local cuisine.
(photo or two forthcoming)
It was marvelous; we were exhausted; we said our goodnights. A shimmering slice of Italian moon lead our path to welcomed sleep and sweet Sicilian dreams.
** A few more photos from our day:
Paula A. Reynolds
Lover of travel and life's many other blessings!