The Cathedral of Cefalù
There are several hypotheses on the origins of the construction of the Cathedral of Cefalù. According to the legend, it was Roger II in gratitude for having survived a storm near the coast, wanted to build a great religious building. Others believe that it was built to convert many Muslims who at the time lived in the northern coast of Sicily. Most likely, behind the construction of the cathedral there was the special behest of Roger II to assert his supremacy against that of the Pope’s. The marvelous structure was started in 1131 but the original plan was never brought to completion.
The mighty Norman structure dominates the ancient quarter, with your back to the scenic coast: the facade, which looks out on Piazza Duomo, is characterized by two large towers between which there is a magnificent entrance with marble decorations. The interior consists of three aisles divided by columns. Of exquisite work are marble statues such as the Madonna and Child on the left aisle.
But that which marvels is without a doubt are the gold dipped mosaics placed behind the altar, made in classical Byzantine, and perfectly preserved and shining in all their glory: Christ Pancreator is placed in the upper section, below The Madonna with the four archangels, and finally the twelve apostles. Ever more, the surrounding walls are decorated with mosaics depicting figures of saints.
A side entrance leads to the cloister of the Cathedral, once severely damaged, but today returned to its beauty thanks to the recently completed restoration work.
The historic center of Cefalù
The historic center of Cefalù has a main axis, Corso Ruggero, around which develops an intricate set of streets and alleys, derived from the Arab period. Other evidences remain from this time-period, such as a washhouse carved directly into the rock. It should also be noted that the beautiful medieval palace Great Osterio, previously the royal palace of Roger, later became the residence of the Ventimiglia family.
Piazza Garibaldi instead gives us access to the Fortress: After a nice climb you reach the so-called Temple of Diana, an archaic construction dating from the ninth century BC, changed considerably during the Greek period and converted into a church of Byzantine times. From this last period, remain traces of the walls, which at the time were running a length of 3 kilometers, in addition to a few ruins of the medieval castle.
Municipal Museum Mandralisca
Near the Cathedral, in Via Mandralisca, the Municipal Museum has a collection of historical artifacts of exceptional value: paintings, bronzes, mosaics, coins, engravings, tracing the history of Cefalù since ancient times.
The most prestigious piece is undoubtedly the Portrait of an Unknown Man, created by Antonello da Messina, to whom an entire room is dedicated, complete with explanatory panels in reference to the painting.
Noted should also be the numerous finds of Greek origin, among which is “the seller of tuna”, a vase painted around the fourth century BC.
Historical Background of Cefalù
The construction of the city of Cefalu started from populations originating in Sicily who found the place to have a good natural defense. The center has significant influences from the Greek world, so much as to be called in the ancient period Kephaloidion (the head), referring to the place where it stood.
It passed onto the hands of the Romans in 254 BC but there is no specific information to this historical period. The Arabs took Cefalù only after two bloody sieges, but it was the Normans after the Conquest of 1063, that made the city a major nerve center of Sicily where the most important buildings of present day testify to the splendor of the epoch.
Cefalù by Night
In the Sicilian landscape, Cefalù is a front-row seat not only for the beauty that it has but also for the nightlife that it offers, incredibly alive and satisfying to any need.
The entire historical center hosts elegant restaurants, in which delicious dishes common to the cuisine of Messina and Palermo are served. The main courses, needless to say, are based on fresh fish.
During the summer season, it is on the seafront that the nightlife focuses: between a nice ice cream and a drink, and a walk in front of the beach shore where the sea breeze revitalizes the air. There are several bars that offer the chance to drink until late in the evening and of course, the clubs situated in picturesque locations, where every day of the week, the parties last all night.
The beauty of the environment together with a varied array of services and leisure activities, easily explains why Cefalù has become one of the most popular destinations in the Sicilian tourist scene.