The next morning, my dad and I woke up very excited that Joe & mom would finally be joining us! I know I already mentioned how amazing Hotel Kalura was, but I think having an al fresco breakfast on their terrace, really put the icing on the cake. I don’t think there is much better than enjoying a cappuccino or fresh squeezed blood orange juice while you’re basking in the sunshine and staring at the glistening waters. I literally could have stayed there all day!
With the other two on their way from Palermo, we knew we didn’t want to go too far, but had some time to kill until they arrived. Remember when we drove all the way up and around the mini mountain the day before? Well, when we were driving back towards Cefalù from the other direction, I noticed what looked like an old fortress, perched on top of a cliff that jutted out into the ocean from what looked like right next door to our hotel. We decided we would take a chance and try to find it even though we had no luck locating it on a map. We headed out from the hotel on foot and followed along the nearby residential street. We were ooh-ing and aah-ing as we passed by all the beautiful homes with trees and flowers all recently in bloom. We even climbed into an empty and overgrown plot to get some incredible pictures of the ocean & coast below us. But unfortunately we were led to a dead end and greeted by a gated entry to a private residence, which I am sure housed this fort in their backyard. We were bummed, but little did we know our adventure would not end there…
While we were walking we noticed a few signs that had people walking and CEFALU written underneath it. We figured out that there was a footpath that leads you down to the coast and takes you into the port area of the city. We kept on going, about 10 minutes or so until we were led to what looked like a small hotel, but no where to go. This couldn’t be right? Luckily an employee passing by must have noticed how confused we were and literally pointed to a small white fence with a staircase. We never would have known that this was the public walkway that continues on to the town! It was these little things that made Cefalù (and Sicily in general) feel so much more charming and local, which I really loved. After a few more minutes we arrived at a small and super rocky beach and marina. I immediately noticed a huge piece of green sea glass staring at me from the rocks below, and swiped it up right away. (Sea glass hunting is a competitive sport for everyone, right?!) But fear not this would not turn into a serious competition because there was literally sea glass strewn verywhere! Joe’s mom had told me that apparently Sicily is known for their sea glass in some parts, and unbeknownst to us, we accidentally strolled up to the jackpot. It was perfect timing 20 minutes later when Joe called and said they would be there shortly, because our backs were completely broken from being bent over scouring the shoreline for those perfect pieces!
We found mom and Joe in the exact place we were a few hours ago, having a bite to eat and relaxing on the terrace. The gang was finally all together and we could officially start our Sicilian vacation! After a quick freshen up, we jumped in the car and headed into town.
We walked up and down the streets of Cefalù, popping in and out of shops, picking up a quick espresso, and if you are me, stopping at every cross street to take pictures of the endless clothes lines filled with the drying clothes of the people of Cefalù. The town is not very big at all, so it’s quite easy to see most of it in one day. The main attraction is definitely their Cathedral. A large stone structure, right in the center of town. To me it looked and felt more like a fortress then a church – a very plain stone facade, and an extremely bare, and minimally decorated interior. Compared to probably all of the other churches we’ve seen in Europe (and we’ve seen A LOT) this was certainly one of the most unique. What amazed me the most is to learn that construction on this Cathedral began in 1131…….. like……. this church is OLD. Crazy to even try and think about going that far back in time and standing in the same place as 12th century Italians did. Crazy, crazy.
Next was our walk up to La Rocca, basically “The Rock” situated right in the middle of Cefalù. While researching what to do in Cefalù, La Rocca kept coming up, but I never quite got a clear idea of exactly what it was or entailed. Some things I read said it was a stair path that led up to a viewpoint over the city, while other things I read said it was a 45 minute hike to ancient ruins. I forgot where I read it, but directions to get there basically said to go to the bank in the beginning of town, and follow the unmarked staircase to the right. This led us directly up to the entrance of La Rocca. Unfortunately the man who was working at the gate could not speak English and therefore could not provide any insight to a suggested route or how long it would take, so we were on our own.
We zig-zagged along a paved path and followed the steps up and around. But soon after the pavement turned to dirt, and we were making our way higher and higher up. Pretty soon we were ascending rocky crags and seriously sweating! There were really no signs telling you which direction to go, and a few paths seemed to veer off in opposite directions. Of course with no signage, there was also no indication of how far away we were from the top. We continued on and eventually caught up to some people, so we knew we were at least heading in the right direction. Eventually we could see the ruins at the very top and were relieved that we weren’t on a mystery mission. Turns out everything I read about this hike is correct! I have to admit we did not anticipate what an intense hike it would be, so we were a bit ill-prepared, but never the less about an hour or so later, we made it to the top. The landmark we reached was Tempio di Diana – remains of a 4th century temple that is believed to have been used by Sicily’s first inhabitants. Although the only thing that remains is a crumbling foundation, it’s still amazing to see parts of it still standing after almost 1,600+ years! The expanse where Tempio di Diana is located also doubles as the perfect photo op for a view of the entire city of a Cefalù. The cerulean water paired with the orange roofed buildings of the city against the green mountains was seriously so spectacular. I almost feel like my pictures do not do it justice! We climbed around there for a bit, snapping pictures and hopping over to different sides to make sure we got every picture possible!
Once we arrived back in town, there were a couple of more things we wanted to see. I had read about Salita Saraceni and had to go by for a picture since this is my mom’s maiden name. We also stopped by Lavatoio Medievale Fiume Cefalino, an ancient wash bath that is hidden down a curved, stone staircase, tucked away right off the street. We also wanted to go back down to the beach to show mom & Joe. We put our feet in the water so we could actually say we have been in the Tyrrhenian Sea. We strolled along the promenade there in the warm sunshine before eventually making our way back towards the car. We were starving at this point and wanted to have a nice lunch. I read about a small, nearby village called Sant’Ambrogio, which apparently had one of the best restaurants in the area. Hoping that it would still be open when we arrived – these Italians and their dang afternoon siestas – we eagerly took off.
Sant’Ambrogio is a small town, with a population of roughly only 250 people! We were wondering if we would blink and miss it when driving there, but we immediately knew when we arrived as we were greeted by a pristine town, dotted with a few cafes, and many locals sitting on the benches along their main street. We were ecstatic when we saw Osteria Bacchus was open, and were escorted to our table by the super friendly owner who was more than excited to have some Americans in his restaurant. The only other people in there was a group of locals drinking wine and sharing a whole fish – this was the only sign we needed to feel reassured that this would be a great meal. We wanted to have an authentic Sicilian meal, so decided to order what we thought was a sharing plate of typical appetizers. Since the guys were hungry, we also ordered a green salad and a plate of carbonara. When our food arrived, we were stunned to see how much was coming out! Plate after plate of food was being delivered to our table, and we couldn’t wait to dig in. I doubt I can remember everything we ate, but it looked something like this: local olives, mini sausages sauteed with onions, broccoli rabe, roasted cauliflower and garlic, baked artichokes, fried artichoke stems, and my absolute FAVOURITE, panelle aka fried chickpea polenta. Literally, I need to learn how to make that stuff because it was so addicting and so delicious. Osteria Bacchus blew away my expectations, not only because of the super fresh and amazing food, but because it was one of the coolest, most unique cultural and culinary experiences I have ever had. It may be embarrassing to admit, but this was the highlight of our trip for me. I am so happy we took the quick ride to this small, but mighty village – sometimes it’s the little adventures that are the most rewarding.
We arrived back at the hotel and went for a walk around to see the grounds. They had tennis courts, basketball courts, ping pong, a pool and a beach bar – literally everything you need for a perfect vaca! I was having serious FOMO of how much fun it would be to be here in the hot summer, hanging by the pool with a cocktail with the beautiful views of La Rocca in the background. We also took a walk down to their beach, and although it’s a bit rocky for my liking, I would have no problem lounging on a beach chair and dipping my toes in the crystal clear water. We were hanging out there literally as the sun was going down, and the pink-blue-purple colours of the twilight were just magical.
We went for our last meal in Cefalù at a restaurant called Locanda del Marinao. The simple yet elegant restaurant is in the heart of the city, and even though it is Michelin star rated, it was very casual and unpretentious. (True story: this restaurant may have a Michelin star, but they don’t have a website. This just proves to me how noncommercial Sicily truly is.) We all had some variation of seafood, paired with a delicious white wine – and every item was a winner. I particularly enjoyed my mom’s twirly pasta with fresh clams and tomatoes. We all chatted about the day and agreed that Cefalù is a really special place. From the gorgeous sea to the summit of La Rocca and all the cobblestone streets and culture in between, I’d say it will definitely be a trip my family will never forget.