This quaint little Italian fishing village of Cefalu on the Tyrrenian Sea on the north coast of Sicily is fast becoming quite a tourist hot spot. With the dramatic rocky crag looming above, a dramatic rocky coastlines mixed with sandy beaches, Cefalu is a great spot to spend some time soaking up the best of what Italy has to offer. Small and easy to get around, there are plenty of sights to see, but also beaches to lie on, water to swim in and good food to sample.
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The most impressive sight and visible from the moment you arrive is the iconic La Rocca (The Rock). An imposing rocky hilltop that used to house a settlement before a Norman invasion, La Rocca now looms almost 300 metres above the little orange-roofed town. As well as being a historical site, the walk up to La Rocca also provides some amazing views of Cefalu and beyond. Follow the signs from town to the 4th century Diana's Temple. The walk to the temple is reasonable and well sign posted. You can get nice views along the way including the remains of the temple. The second part of the hike, up to the ruins is a bit tougher and good shoes and reasonable level of fitness is recommended. You then climb the Salita Sareceno staircase taking you over three levels of city walls to the ruins of the old town that was destroyed in 1063. You can stand atop the rock, explore the archaeological surroundings of the old town and take in the a spectacular 360-degree view. In summer the site opens at 9:00am so get in early to avoid the Sicilian heat.
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The Cathedral (Duomo) sits in a lovely square, palm trees above, with the twin turreted church in its centre and La Rocca in the background. The cathedral itself houses some impressive 12th century Byzantine mosaics. Once you have seen the church, you can rest up in a restaurant with a coffee or a glass of wine, or on the benches people watching and eating gelato.
Visit the port and take a look at the traditional way of life in Sicily. It is also a good way to find what will be on the local restaurant menus that day.
Join what feels like the entire population and relax on the beach which is right in the centre and continues along the coast line. There are sections where you can hire umbrellas and chairs but there is a public beach on the stretch closest to town.
Located 70 kilometres from Palermo and still part of the Palermo district, if a few days in Cefalu doesn't fit in to your schedule this cute, fishing village is a possible day trip from Palermo.
Sicily's main rail line runs along the coast connecting Palermo with Milazzo and Messina then on to the Italian mainland. The route is quite scenic and takes just under an hour and costs €5.15 from Palermo. Trains leave hourly from Palermo Centrale and you can buy tickets from the ticket office or at the ticket machines in the foyer. You can continue on to Messina and change to head south to Taormina and Catania.
There are a vairiety of bus cmpaies that can take you to Cefalu from the major cities including Palermo. From Palermo the journey by bus is roughly the same price and time, but takes the motorway so you miss the scenery along the coast.
There are ferry connections from Cefalu to the Aeolian Islands of Alicudi, Filicudi, Salina, Lipari and Vulcano with the opportunity to connect for the other islands. Services operate June to September.
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Parking is limited and prohibited in many parts of the centre. There are 10-minute spaces to unpack your car if you arrive by car and if your hotel cannot arrange parking, there are guarded, multi-story guarded car parks in the city.
Cefalu is small and in summer very busy, getting around my foot is the quickest and easiest way.
If you are feeling adventurous you can hire scooters and zip around the town and it surrounds for as little as €35.
All your great Sicilian food is available in Cefalu. You are in a prime fishing port, so if seafood if you thing you are in luck. Sicilian specialities include mussels, swordfish and sardines.
There is no shortage of restaurants along the beach front and throughout the town.
For quick snack don't forget to sample the arancini, deep fried risotto balls, they are sold in most cafes and street vendors for €1.20-2.50
Cefalu also lays claim to inventing ice-cream so you better taste it to see how it compares.
On a hot summer's day grab a refreshing iced granita to cool you down. Try the zesty lemon, wildberry or pistachio, just make sure they are made traditionally with chipped ice and fruits and not just syrups. Most artisinal gelato stores will also sell granita.
With popularity comes tourism and there are heaps of hotels, resorts and apartments available in Cefalu. For budget travellers, your hostel options lie in Palermo.
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Almost all towns and cities in Italy have internet cafes. A growing number of budget hostels and nicer hotels have free Wifi. By law all public-access internet points must keep records of web sites viewed by customers, and even the customer's ID: expect to be refused access if you don't provide identification. Hotels providing Internet access are not required to record IDs if the connection is provided in the guest's room, although if the connection is offered in the main public hall then IDs are required. Publicly available wireless access without user identification is illegal, so open Wi-Fi hotspots (like the ones you might expect to find in a mall or cafée) all have some form of (generally one-time) registration.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The main networks are TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile, part of Telecom Italia, formerly state controlled), Vodafone, Wind, and 3 (only UMTS cellphones). Best advice is to buy a prepaid SIM card (from € 10 upwards) and a cheap mobile phone (€ 19 upwards) to put it in (if you don't have a cellphone already that you can use). It will be much more practical. All land line numbers start with 0. Mobile numbers start with 3. Numbers starting with 89 are high-fee services. In case of emergency call the appropriate number from the list below. Such calls are usually free and calls to 112, 113 (police), 115 (fire), 118 (health) can be made from payphones for free without the need of inserting coins. 112 (standard emergency number in GSM specification) can be dialed in any case for free from any mobile phone.
Post Italiane is the national postal services of Italy and has quite an efficient network of postal offices and reliable postal services. Standard letters and postcards (up to 20 grams) cost €0.39 to send within Europe and the Mediterranean countries outside Europe and €0.41 to all other destinations throughout the country. Up to 50 grams, prices start at €0.52 for Europe, €0.62 for other areas. Packages start at €1.55 within Europe, and around €2.50 for other countries. Post office business hours in Italy are from 8:30am to 2:00pm from Monday to Friday, with closing times at Saturday and the last day of the month at 12 noon. In general, larger post offices in bigger cities and in tourist areas keep longer hours than those in local towns. Also note that business hours in the south might be different than the north, with longer hours at night, especially in summer! If you want to send packages you might try faster and more reliable/efficient private courier companies like TNT, UPS or DHL.
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