Seven days felt the right amount of time to spend in this lovely seaside town with its two appealing sandy beaches and fairly unspoiled historic centre. It’s medium in size and not too challenging on any level. In fact sometimes it felt a bit too easy for the English tourist. They were many of us, ambling around in those awful trousers that unzip or stop at an unflattering point on the leg.
The Trundler however never wears anything other than dresses and skirts. She hoped not to blend in too much with the other tourists and tried her best with her few words of Italian.
Cefalu is easy to reach from Palermo. There are regular trains and you can buy a ticket on the day for 6 euros from the station, where it does help that the vendors speak English. Remember to validate the ticket in the machines dotted around the station. They make a little clicking noise when you put the ticket in.
On arrival, it’s easy to walk to the old town, which is where most of the hotels are located. You can get a taxi, but they only go so far as the streets are narrow and cobbled.
Then you have to rely on a shuttle to take you to your door. So the best thing is to trundle your bag along the Corso Ruggero, stopping perhaps for a chickpea fritter or an Arancine at one of the many cafes, bars and restaurants along the way.
The Trundler stayed at Al Saraceno on Via Carlo Ortolani di Bordonaro, which is at the end of Corso Ruggero. It’s a small, friendly hotel about a minute from the old town beach but with wonderful views across the bay from some rooms and from the spacious terrace at the top of the hotel. A double room costs from around £60 to £80 and it’s worth paying more to be next to the terrace so you can watch those green and blue waves from morning until night.
You can see the 12th century cathedral too, stark but stunning and the mountain of La Rocca, looming above. But it’s the sea which draws The Trundler like a powerful magnet and with 20 minutes of checking in, she was making her way down to the beach to walk into the warm, calm water, easy for swimming on that sunny October afternoon. The weather was glorious, but on the last day the wind whipped up and the waves were huge, far too big for anyone to swim in.
On such a day you could walk up to La Rocca, following the footpath at the side of the Banco di Sicilia in Piazza Garibaldi. After 20 minutes you reach the Tempo di Diana, a fifth century megalithic structure. and from there go around the crag to the fortifications at the top. Cut down to the temple and rejoin the path back to town.
The Trundler didn’t do that however. Instead she wandered around Cefalu, gazing in wonder at the food shops with their heavenly cheeses and highly decorated cakes and admiring the fruit stalls, which looked so vibrant. She took delight in spotting the Apis – those cute little vans, which Italian use for transporting everything from garlic to building materials. So versatile and endearing.
These small pleasures, coupled with time spent on the beach were what kept The Trundler busy during her time in Cefalu. It’s quite easy to get a bus to the nearby Park Regionale Delle Madonie, whose mountain range and valleys make up this beautiful national park. Castelbuono is its main town and the bus runs here from Cefalu regularly from the train station. The Trundler can’t vouch for its glories but she can sing the praises of the excellent tourist board office on Corso Ruggero.
She went back there several times for a chat and further information and they were so helpful that in the end she didn’t feel the need to go any further. Although she did ask them to book tickets to see a ‘live’ performance of the ballet of Alice in Wonderland, which was being staged at the Royal Opera House and presented by Darcey Bussell.
Watching the film on her last night made The Trundler homesick for London. But the next morning she was glad to awaken in Cefalu for a final breakfast at the hotel of salami and cheese, chocolate cake and coffee with a stupendous view of the sea. Then off she went to the train station, to catch a train to Palermo and beyond. Cefalu had worked a certain magic, made her feel cheerful and brave, relaxed and reassured – ready for the next stage of the journey.