Cefalu, Italy: attractions.


Cefalu (Italy) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. Cefalu’s main attractions with descriptions, guides and maps.

City of Cefalu (Italy).

Cefalù is a city in southern Italy, located on the northern coast of Sicily on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is one of Italy’s most charming seaside resorts with an interesting mix of relaxing beach atmosphere and ancient history. Cefalù is a beautiful old town with a striking medieval cathedral, narrow ancient streets and fishing boats in a small harbor, stunning sunsets and long sandy beaches. So it’s no wonder that the city is considered one of the most popular and beautiful places in Sicily.

Cefalù is situated in a picturesque location at the foot of a high cliff between Palermo and Messina. The city lies in a cozy little fishing harbor and is a maze of ancient streets, dominated by a magnificent Norman cathedral. Just beneath the old town lies a long sandy beach, which has helped Cefalù become a popular resort.

What to do (Cefalù):

Cefalù - Sicily's oldest city

€200 per excursion.

Cefalù is the oldest city in Sicily.

Soak up the atmosphere of antiquity and the pampering of a seaside resort in one of the most beautiful cities in Italy.

To meet the beautiful Cefalù!

€325 per tour


The ancient history, legends and landscapes of Southern Italy.

Geography and climate

Cefalù is situated on the Tyrrhenian coast of Sicily at the foot of a steep 376 m high promontory, 70 km east of Palermo and 185 km west of Messina. The city has a warm Mediterranean climate which is typical of the south of Italy.



Tourist information

  1. Population – 14 thousand
  2. Area – 65 km 2
  3. Language – Italian / Sicilian
  4. Currency – Euro
  5. Visa – Schengen
  6. Time – UTC +1 / summer +2

Cefalù, like virtually every settlement in Sicily, has an excellent gastronomy. The highlight of the local cuisine is the pasta taianu – layers of pasta with meat, roasted eggplant, pine nuts, raisins and pecorino cheese, baked in a large bowl. Also a popular dish is carne murata, which resembles a medieval fortress, consisting of layers of meat, onions and potatoes with fresh basil, oregano and pepper.


Cefalù was founded in Phoenician times. The Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Normans then ruled the city in succession. Cefalù was first mentioned in the 4th century BC under the name Cefaladia and is considered one of the first Greek colonies on the north coast of Sicily.

Because of its favorable strategic position, this settlement has always been a target of conquerors. After a short period of independence, ancient Cefalù was conquered by the rulers of Syracuse and then by the Carthaginians. In the middle of the 3rd century B.C., during the First Punic War, the city was incorporated into the Roman Empire.



After the fall of the Western Roman Empire the city became part of Byzantium and was moved from the plain to the foot of the cliff for protection as the coast of Sicily was often raided by the Arabs. Nevertheless, the ancient city was not completely abandoned. In 858, after a long siege, Cefalù was conquered by the Arabs and for the next two centuries it was part of the Emirate of Sicily.

In 1063 Cefalù was conquered by the Normans. In 1131, King Roger II of Sicily moved it again to one of the sites at the foot of the cliff, where there was a small but excellent harbor, and began the construction of the present cathedral in Byzantine style. Between the 13th and 15th centuries Cefalù was ruled by various noble families and then became the possession of the bishops.

How to get there

Cefalù is not far from the international airport of Palermo and is connected to the capital of Sicily by road and rail.



Cathedral (Duomo)

The cathedral is one of the most interesting and imposing medieval structures in Sicily and the main attraction of Cefalù, which has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The church was completed in the 13th century (construction was slow and took 109 years) and is a mixture of Arabic, Greek, Roman and Byzantine architecture, a reflection of the entire Sicilian history.

Top 5 Most Dangerous Pedestrian Bridges in the World

Legend has it that King Roger II of Sicily erected the cathedral at Cefalù to fulfill a promise he made to God when faced with a fierce sea storm during his journey from Naples to Palermo. Thinking that he would die, the king promised the Savior that he would build a grand cathedral in his honor at whatever place he arrived safely. Upon landing at Cefalù, Roger II kept his promise.


The Cathedral with the panorama of Cefalù as a backdrop

The cathedral is the architectural dominant feature of Cefalù. The highlight of the church are the rectangular towers that give this building the austere look of a medieval fortress. The nave consists of two rows of granite columns with Byzantine capitals supporting arches, above which are richly painted wooden beams. In the right aisle is a 12th century font, and on the left is a 14th century statue of Mary by Italian Renaissance sculptor Antonello Gagini. The interior of the cathedral is also highlighted by the semicircular dome of the apse, decorated with magnificent mosaics by Byzantine artists, which is one of the best preserved in Sicily.

Adjacent to Piazza del Duomo is the Mandralisca Museum, which houses splendid collections covering archaeology, natural history, painting and decorative arts. The Arab and Greek vases are particularly good, as well as a number of exquisitely decorated ceramic artifacts discovered during excavations. Collections of decorative arts include porcelain, bronze, Murano glass, marble, and painted wood. The gem of the art gallery is the famous portrait of a man by Antonello da Messina, painted in 1465.

Cefalu Beach

The beach at Cefalù

The long sandy beach with golden sand is one of Cefalù’s most popular spots (especially in summer). It is located on a bend below the old town and is 5 km long. The promenade Lungomare, which means “Promenade”, runs along the beach. The beach can be quite crowded during the high season.

The beach of Mazzaforno is much more secluded, about 3 km from Cefalù city center. In fact, it is a group of beaches surrounded by rocks and there are several paths leading to it.

La Rocca

La Rocca

The north end of Cefalù’s main street, Corso Ruggiero, is the starting point of the hour-long ascent to the cliff known as Rocca. It is a 269-meter scenic outcrop of rock, most of which is covered with pine trees. The top of the cliff is surrounded by medieval walls, most of which are original. Crowning this hill are the remains of an ancient Norman castle, built on the foundations of an Arab citadel. Climbing to Rocca you can see that Cefalù is a small fishing village sandwiched between the Tyrrhenian Sea and a high rock.

Halfway to the top of Rocca you can see the ruins of the megalithic temple of Diana, dating back at least to the 9th century BC. This structure is one of the oldest religious buildings in Europe. It is also the earliest known temple built by the Sicans (indigenous peoples of Sicily). In Greek and Roman times, it was used by the cult of Hercules. In the 12th century, a chapel was built here, of which the remains of the arched windows and the apse have been preserved.

The main street of Cefalù is the Corso Ruggero (Roger), which marks the limit of the medieval city. The best advice is not to follow it entirely. Get lost among the secluded alleys and narrow streets where the atmosphere is very different.

Lavatoio (Medieval Laundry)

Lavatoio (Medieval Laundry)

Lavatoio is one of the most unusual sights in Cefalù, and probably in southern Italy as well. It is a public laundry built in the Middle Ages in the heart of the old town. Women used to gather here to wash and rinse their clothes, and perhaps bathe in a series of large pools that were built in an unusual stepped sequence.

A staircase of lava stones leads to this place under broad vaults. The pools are filled with water from 22 taps. Overflowing through this unusual cascade water flows through a channel into the sea. At the foot of the stairs is an engraved verse, written in 1655 by Vincenzo Auria: “Here flows the Cefalino, healer than any other river, purer than silver, colder than snow”.

15 sights of Hannover, Germany

Church of Santo Stefano

Church of Santo Stefano

The Church of Santo Stefano, also known as the Church of Purgatory, has one of the most beautiful facades in Cefalù. The elegantly carved portal of this ancient structure is in Baroque style and overlooks a small green square.

Several buildings were previously located in this quarter, including the previous church of Santo Stefano and the chapel of Santa Margherita, founded in 1466 by the Giaconia family and abolished in the early 17th century. The first church of Santo Stefano was built by the brotherhood of the same name, which in 1596 became the “brotherhood of souls in Purgatory”. This fraternity then bought the adjoining property and built the present church, completing it in 1668.

Itria Church

Church of Itria

The Church of Itria was probably built over a pre-existing Byzantine church of the same name in the 16th century. The building stands on Piazza Crispi, resting on the bastion of Capo Marchiafava. Originally there were two churches here: San Giovanni Evangelista and Santa Maria del Odigitria, better known as del Itria.

The first church belonged to the brotherhood of the same name, mentioned at the beginning of the 16th century. The second church was a chapel dedicated to San Michele Arcangelo, also belonging to the brotherhood. Later the two churches were sold to Bishop Ottaviano Preconio, who founded the brotherhood of Santa Maria del Itria (or San Nicola da Tolentino). In 1961 the two churches were transformed into one parish.

On the south side of Via Porto Salvo is the ancient 12th century church dedicated to San Leonardo. The church retains its original portal, now hidden behind a wall, decorated with floral ornaments.

Church of Della Catena

Church of Della Catena

The church della Catena was built in 1780. Interestingly, the foundation of the bell tower is the remains of megalithic walls, the stones of which can be seen at its base. A loggia of golden stone with niches for statues stands out on the flat facade, as well as the unusual location of the two clocks.

The interior of the church is rather simple, with a single nave and altar installed in 1902 and a statue dedicated to Santa Maria della Catena to commemorate the miracle of the 14th century. At the base of the bell tower is a monument to the local patriot Salvatore Spinuzza, executed in this square in 1857 during the revolt for the liberation of Sicily from Bourbon rule.

Osterio Magno

Osterio Magno

The Osterio Magno is an imposing building with double and triple arched windows, which was the residence of the Sicilian king in the 14th century. It is located at the intersection of Via Amendola and Corso Ruggiero. It consists of two parts, each belonging to a different era. The older part, facing Via Amendola, is built in tufa and golden limestone and has two windows.

Church of San Sebastiano

Church of San Sebastiano

The Church of San Sebastiano dates from 1523 and overlooks Piazza Marina. The building has a single nave with two niches in the side walls, painted with frescoes. On the main altar there is a golden tabernacle from the end of the 17th century.

Church of Santa Maria

Church of Santa Maria

The Church of Santa Maria, on Via Umberto I, was built in 1686 by order of Monsignor Pietro Cimino, dean of the cathedral and member of the tribunal of the Inquisition. Here, where the church now stands, there was once a chapel dedicated to San Vito. Inside the church you can admire ancient statues set in four niches.

Oratory of Holy Communion

Oratory of Holy Communion

The Oratory of the Holy Communion was built in the late 17th century. A limestone block with a funerary inscription in Greek originating from a Hellenistic necropolis was used as the foundation. The building has a simple facade preceded by a short staircase, with two carved double portals and a projecting cornice.

Interesting Cities in New Zealand

Ghibilmann Monastery

Ghibilmann Monastery

A winding scenic road leads from Cefalù south to Gibilmanna, situated on the slopes of Mount Sant’Angelo, 1,081 meters high. In this beautiful wooded area is the pilgrimage monastery of the same name. The monastery church was built in the 17th and 18th centuries and contains a Madonna by the famous Italian Renaissance sculptor Antonello Ghajini (1478-1536) who is particularly revered.

Interesting tours

Hidden corners of Venice

€200 per excursion.

Hidden corners of Venice

Medieval, graceful, fragile – walk through the most authentic quarters of the city and grasp its soul

Rome - sightseeing tour of the main sites and the undiscovered ghetto

€120 per excursion

Rome – a sightseeing tour of the major sites and the undiscovered ghetto

Follow the city’s journey from antiquity to modern times and learn about the inhabitants of the past and present

Cefalu Attractions

Sightseeing in Cefalù

Cefalu is a small community in the northeast of the Province of Palermo, Sicily, known as a seaside resort and one of the most beautiful small towns in Italy.

Cefalù has a picturesque location on the Tyrrhenian Sea, at the foot of the unusual Rocca di Cefalù (The Rocca of Cefalù).

Ancient history, culture and a number of attractions make this seaside town very attractive to travelers.

The Rock of Rocca di Cefalu

The Rock of Rocca di Cefalù, at 268 meters, is itself a landmark of Cefalù. It is as if it has cautiously rolled up to the edge of the sea, reverently guarding the small spa town.

In the Middle Ages, the townspeople were forced to move from lowland to high ground to protect themselves from the raids of pirates from the sea. On the rock have survived the remains of a fortress wall VII-VIII centuries. and cisterns to collect rainwater, the ruins of the former bakery and several residential buildings.

At the very top are the ruins of the ancient castle, built in the XIII-XIV centuries. It was finally abandoned only in the XIX century.

The most ancient buildings on the rock are the preserved megalithic structures (built of large stone blocks): the wall (V. B. C.) and the so-called Temple of Diana, dating back to the IX – VIII centuries B. C. The ruins of the ancient sanctuary are on the Rocca di Cefalu, 150 m above sea level and the rituals in this building seem to have been linked to the worship of water.

You can climb the cliff along stone paths and trails leading to the ruins and observation decks that offer spectacular views of the charming seaside town.

All of Sicily’s main attractions, restaurants and beaches are mapped in our Signature Guide.

Cefalù Cathedral

The Cathedral of Cefalù (Duomo di Cefalu), dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Lord, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015, as a unique monument of the Arab-Norman period.

Around the construction of the Cathedral of Cefalu there is a legend that it was founded by a vow made by Roger II after a miraculous rescue during a storm. Right on the seashore in a small fishing town, where a ship was washed up after a natural disaster, a small wooden chapel was originally built, and later the Cathedral of the Transfiguration was laid on the chosen site.

Construction of the Duomo di Cefalu was interrupted and then resumed and lasted more than 130 years. The main west façade with two Norman towers was completed in 1240 and in 1267 the cathedral was consecrated. It became the most visible structure in the city, resembling a massive knight’s castle.

In front of the cathedral, rising majestically against the cliff, is a large terrace which was once a cemetery with earth brought from Jerusalem.

The two towers, which were completed at different times, only appear to be the same, but their architecture is different.

The towers of Cefalu Cathedral

The right tower resembles the papal mitre and represents the power of the church, the left one the crown and the might of the king. Arabian motifs are reflected in the design of the lancet windows of the towers and the decoration of the upper part of the facade with false arches intertwined in a double pattern.

The Blue Mosque is the most famous mosque in Istanbul

Inside, the main attraction are the mosaics, which cover an area of about 600 square meters. For their performance by Roger II in 1145 the best masters were invited from Constantinople.

Cathedral of Cefalù interior

The most valuable of the works is the huge mosaic in the apse depicting Christ Pantocrator (Almighty) surrounded by the Mother of God, apostles, archangels and seraphim.

Mosaic in Cefalù Cathedral

His image is distinguished by the image of two dishevelled strands on his forehead, which supposedly remind of his mercy and compassion. An interesting speculation is that the appearance of Christ may be very similar to the portrait of Roger II himself. The tradition of Byzantine depictions at the time allowed for the resemblance of Jesus and saints to rulers.

There are not many valuable pieces of art in the church, but the statue of the Madonna and Child made by Antonello Gagini in 1533 is definitely one of the masterpieces, and the stone font of the 12th century, depicting four lions, is one of the oldest.

The cathedral is open daily from 10:00 to 17:00. In July and August the cathedral is closed from 13:00 to 15:00 but is open until 19:00.

  • The official website of the cathedral: duomocefalu.it
  • We suggest you read about: The best beaches in Sicily

Medieval Laundry

In modern Cefalù you can immerse yourself in the life of the ancient city by visiting the medieval public laundry Lavatoio.

Medieval laundry attraction in Cefalù

It is located in the historic center, you only have to go down from Via Vittorio Emanuele by a wide lava staircase. At the entrance there is an inscription from the lines of a verse by Vincenzo Oria (1655): “Here flows the Cefalino, the most healing river, purer than silver, colder than snow.”

The Cefalino is an underground river flowing into the sea, in which the laundry has been washed since Arab-Norman times. In the 17th century, the laundry was hidden under the sidewalk.

The water to the stone washing tanks was supplied from several taps with lion heads; it was supplied through cast-iron pipes directly from the River Cefalino. By the way, the water supply system was inherited from the Arabs and is still working properly.

The entire space is a large and comfortable stone complex, arranged for laundry and possibly for bathing, judging by the presence and large tanks. The laundry was used for its intended purpose in the early 20th century and was restored as a historical site in 1991.

Sanctuary of Jibilmann

The Sanctuary of Gibilmanna, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is located in Gibilmanna, around 15 km from Cefalù, on the west slope of Monte Sant’Angelo, at 800 metres above sea level.

Ghibilmann Sanctuary in Cefalù

The name “Gibilmanna” comes from the Arabic word “gebel” (mountain) and “manna” (manna is the edible part of the ash tree).

The earliest building on this site is considered to be the Benedictine monastery, erected in the second half of the VI century by St Gregory the Great. The walls of the monastery were destroyed in the 9th century by the Arabs, but the small church of St. Michael the Archangel was preserved by the hermit monks.

In 1619 it was decided to build a new church on the site of the old chapel and in 1625 it was already open for worship. The Christian sanctuary is a Neo-Gothic structure with lancet windows and arches. Elegant symmetrical towers crown the facade, which acquired its present form in 1907 as a result of the reconstruction of the collapsed portico.

A Byzantine fresco from the 11th century was transferred from the old chapel and inserted into the wall of the Chapel of the Madonna to decorate the interior of the new church. “Madonna and Child”, as well as a statue of the Virgin Mary and an ancient crucifix.

The interior of the church is adorned with a magnificent altarpiece by the school of Antonello Gaggini. In 1954 Pope Pius XII declared Maria Santissima di Gibilmann the patron saint of the diocese and the city of Cefalù.

Kyoto - the cultural capital of Japan

Mandralisca Museum

Not far from Piazza del Duomo, the only city museum in Cefalù known as the Museo Mandralisca is a must-see.

Mandralisca Museum in Cefalù

The exhibition was gathered in the mid-nineteenth century from the collection of works of art belonging to Baron Enrico di Mandralisca. He was a man of progressive views for his time, who sought to make art accessible to the common people and the museum open not only to the aristocracy, but also to all comers.

Among the exhibits are paintings from the XV-XVIII centuries, Greek and Arabic ceramics, statues, ancient books, coins, fragments of mosaic Roman floors, Byzantine icons and much more. Townspeople call this unique collection “the museum of all sorts of things”.

The most interesting of the paintings is “Portrait of an Unknown Sailor”, dated 1465 by the famous Sicilian painter Antonello da Messina. The man’s smile is considered second only to Gioconda in mystery, and the painting is often referred to as the “Mona Lisa in the guise of a man”. Some art historians believe it was the portrait that inspired Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci to paint his most famous painting.

  • Official website: www.fondazionemandralisca.it

Church of San Stefano

The Chiesa del Purgatorio or Chiesa di Santo Stefano, built in 1466, is an active religious building in Cefalù.

Church of San Stefano in Cefalù

It was founded by the Fraternity of Santo Stefano which in 1596 was transformed into the Fraternity of the Souls in Purgatory. The building is characterized by a beautiful façade with a sumptuous Baroque portal. The characteristic element of decoration for Purgatory churches, the skull and bones, can be seen on the sides above the entrance arch.

The openwork wrought iron staircase with two spans leading to the massive doors, the round windows, the small bell tower and the smooth lines of the flat facade, which lacks symmetry, all give the structure elegance and a touch of romance. The church is located in the center of the old town and is in demand for wedding ceremonies. In front of the church there is a small and cozy square with flowers and greenery.

The interior of the church has three naves, divided by marble columns, and two chapels – the Crucifixion and St. Peter the Apostle (1614). “Christ giving the Eucharist.” In the church since 1867 in a marble sarcophagus are the remains of Baron Enrico di Mandralisca, who died in 1864.

Osterio Magno Palace

Osterio Magno is an ancient fortified palace on Via G. Amendola, also called the “Great Inn”.

Osterio Magno Palace in Cefalù

The palace was built in the 13th century on the site of an older building dating back to the Roman period.

The palace was built in the 13th century on the site of an older Roman structure, the Osterio Magno, which was built on the opposite side of the street and has not survived to this day. Until 1602, Osterio Magno belonged to the noble Italian family Ventimiglia. In the XVII century, the palace was taken over by the Dominican monks, who, in turn, rented some buildings and rooms as warehouses, stores and even a prison.

The massive complex of structures was built in several stages and does not have a pronounced architectural style. Of interest is the polychrome façade with alternating bands of tufa and lava and decorated with three fine windows with complex ornaments in chiaramontano style, called so from the name of the Chiaramonte, a rich and influential family of the XIV century in Sicily.

The remains of a Hellenistic building and the bronze coins of the 4th century B.C. were discovered in Osterio Magno during the years 1988 and 1991.

Cefalù is a charming coastal resort town with a peculiar Sicilian flavor. What could be more pleasant than wandering through medieval streets, enjoying mesmerizing views from the top of Rocca di Cefalù and spending time on the beaches of the warm Tyrrhenian Sea!

( No ratings yet )
Like this post? Please share to your friends:
Leave a Reply

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: