From its dramatic natural surroundings to its historic churches, Sicily has something to offer every traveler. The island of Sicily is a unique part of Italy. Its craggy mountains, wild vegetation, and omnipresent sea have fired the imagination of poets, wayfarers, and visitors alike. 

Though it is one of 20 Italian regions, its history under the yoke of endless conquerors –especially the Normans – has led to its own distinctive customs, traditions, and even language that make life on the island unique from that on the peninsula. 

The island has a rich history. Archaeologists have identified evidence of civilization as early as 12,000 B.C. By the fifth century B.C., Sicily was a thriving part of Magna Graecia (Greater Greece), attested to by numerous well-preserved Greek temples and theaters.  Under Norman rule in the latter half of the 11th century, a Golden Age ensued in which diverse cultures including Muslims, Jews, Western and Eastern Christians lived together in harmony. Under the leadership of King Roger I, there was a fusion of Arabian and Byzantine features in architecture and art in what is known as the Sicilian Romanesque.

Christianity arrived in the island early. By the time St. Paul’s arrival in Malta, Sicily, and Italy was documented in the Book of Acts, there was already a community of fervent believers: “Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the Dioscuri as its figurehead. We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days” (28:11-12).

Today, Sicilians are known for their devout faith. Throughout the island, feast days of local patron saints are observed with rich pageantry and popular traditions. The Cathedral of Cefalu is one of the greatest examples of Norman architecture in all of Sicily. Erected between 1131 and 1240 in the Norman architectural stye, it is believed the church was the result of a vow made to the Holy Savior by King Roger II, who survived a storm and arrived safely on the beach nearby. The building has a fortress-like character, and seen from a distance it dominates the skyline of the surrounding medieval town. 

Past the long stretch of beach of Cefalù, between the narrow streets of this town, we reach via Vittorio Emanuele, that hides a precious spot, only a few meters under street level: the medieval wash-house. Through a wide staircase made of lava and lumachella stone with a slight spiralling pattern, we can catch a glimpse of the public wash-house near the Late-Renaissance Palazzo Martino. ”Here flows river Cefalino, more salubrious than any other river, purer than silver, colder than snow”. An inscription at the entrance to the wash-house gives, from the very start, the idea of a curious place, that hides a special story. According to legend, the river Cefalino is born from the pain of a nymph Dafni who, after killing her unfaithful lover, regretted her actions, drowning the old wash-house of Cefalù in tears.

Porta Pescara is an ancient medieval gate, the former entrance to the city of Cefalù. The door, with a Gothic arch, is located in the historic center of the municipality, next to the beach and the old port. From its interior, you get beautiful views of both points of interest.

Cefalu has the city walls and its bastions. Not much has survived from the various rulers. An interesting one is Bastione di Capo Marchiafava. It is a polygon facing the sea built in 17th century. If the weather is good you can spot Aeolian island.

The city is just below the rock which you can climb up and visit some remains of the ancient city that are still visible, on the summit of the rock; but the nature of the site proves that it could never have been more than a small town, and probably owed its importance only to its almost impregnable position. However, the view is breathtaking.

From that point, we decided to come down to the city center again and lunch. Between my brother and me, it was my point to choose the place to eat. Somehow my legs guided me to a restaurant called Lo Scoglio Ubriaco. Boy that place had stories. First of all, just at the entrance there were my beloved Belgian King Albert ll and Belgian Queen Paola Ruffo di Calabria. Seems like my conscience has been telling me how much I am missing Belgium.

The name of the restaurant means the drunken rock. According to the legend, the ship was passing next to these cliffs and rocks and had the shipwreck. As it was carrying the bottles of wine, they all got broken and wine spilled across. Apperently, the fishes were having a big fiesta that night. And so did I! 😛

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