Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Shuffle Off to Cefalu

If you ever have the chance to visit the pretty little town of Cefalu (chef'-a-loo) on the north coast of Sicily, don't go WITH ME unless you have an umbrella, Goretex coat, polar fleece jacket, and waterproof shoes . . . I have been there three times, and every time it has been horrible, rainy, cold, no-good weather. I also carry this curse in Switzerland, so don't go there with me, either.

Actually, I've been to Cefalu four times, but I don't count the first one because it was just a "drive-through" in Kendra's 4WD Chevy. The only thing I saw that time was a very close-up view of the walls of buildings as we managed to scrape through without losing her only remaining exterior mirror.

If you do happen to go there in fair weather, which they MUST have sometime, you will probably love this quaint, cute, charming little seaside town with its polished and patterned cobblestone streets that is nestled beneath a huge monolithic rock formation . . . something like a Sicilian "Stone Mountain."

I think that next to Taormina, Cefalu is the most beloved tourist destination on the island. One might see why if one had good weather . . . The beach is part sand, part jagged-looking black rocks that have been shaped into bizarre shapes by the waves. Colorful fishing boats lie face down on the sand. Fresh fish is served at Cefalu's many excellent restaurants. Like the rest of Sicily, this is not expensive to enjoy with a bottle or pitcher of Sicilian wine.

An underground river provides clear, clean water in the medieval washing area which has been preserved with its stone washboards. Clothes were brought here to be washed and rinsed. The strong flowing river then washed the dirty water out to sea. You can almost imagine this early laundromat as a popular gossip center. Walking up to the main piazza and the cathedral, if you're not being beat on by rain, you can admire the buildings with the mixed architecture influenced primarily by Arabs and Normans, Arabs. Wrought iron balconies are works of art on each one, even when draped with the inevitable Sicilian laundry. Wandering up and down the streets is probably very pleasurable in warm, dry weather. There are hundreds of photo ops.

The cathedral is one of my favorite Sicilian churches. Built in 1173, it is a fortress-looking building that is saved only by a unique combination of Norman architecture and Arabic craftsmen. The interior has the old, flat wooden ceiling, but the apse above and around the altar is spectacularly decorated in Byzantine-style mosaics. Yes, more mosaics! Like Monreale, there is a huge Christ Pancreator (see photo in Monreale entry) looking down from above. The mosaics are remarkably bright and lovely. We see the Virgin Mary, the apostles, saints, prophets, and archangels. In keeping with the Arabic influence, heaven above is depicted in Islamic style! Other details of the cathedral also carry this influence, which makes for a very unusual Catholic church, indeed. As an added bonus, you can stay dry and relatively warm while you are inside. Keep that in mind.


At April 14, 2005 6:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have always had the same kind of weather! Are we sure the sun does shine there?! Sounds like we need a trip there in June to find out. Leslie

At April 17, 2005 11:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The village looks beautiful! Hope to get there some day and when I do, I hope the sun arrives with me!



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