Cefalù: an insider’s guide

14 June 2023
Written by The Italy Insider
Insider's Guide

Cefalù, a cliff whose head-shaped formation has given its name (Kefalè, head in Greek), the same cliff that has characterised the landscape accompanying the imagination of travellers and painters. About an hour’s drive from the capital, Cefalù with its delightful historic center and the extraordinary beauty of the medieval cathedral, is captivating in every corner, with small cobbled streets, hidden arches and courtyards in which is a true pleasure wandering around. 

People enjoying lunch outside the Duomo
The beach in Cefalù

What to see

Il Duomo di Cefalù

The Cathedral of Cefalù, part of the Unesco World’s Heritage, houses some of the most beautiful Byzantine mosaics in Italy. Built in 1148, they covered an area of about 650 square meters and depict Christ Pantocrator in a blessing position, dominating the central apse; in the upper vaults eight winged cherubim and seraphim; below, the Madonna flanked by the archangels and followed by the twelve apostles in two rows of six. The majesty of the cathedral combined with the tranquility of the adjacent cloisters makes it a place that offers a unique atmosphere that defies the centuries.

Mandralisca Museum

The real star of Cefalù is the Portrait of a Man by Antonello da Messina exhibited at the Mandralisca Museum, known as Portrait of the unknown (sailor), it is a small oil on walnut canvas painted between 1465 and 1475 and it seems to have been used as a counter in a pharmacy on Lipari. Inside the Mandralisca Museum there is also an original Greek crater (vessel used to mix water and wine) from the 4th century BC. WEBSITE

Take in the view from the belvedere

The Belvedere of Corso Ruggero with a view of the ancient Greek walls and, carved into the rock below, a path that leads towards the pier. Here, in a suggestive and extremely beautiful environment, you can immerse yourself in natural pools dug into the rock and grasp the magic of the landscape with ever-changing shades and colours from sunrise to sunset.

Parco Nazionale dei Nebrodi

Fiumara d’Arte, open-air contemporary art foundation in Castel di Tusa, in the Nebrodi Park. It is the largest open-air contemporary art park in Europe and the largest naturalistic area in Sicily, together enriching themselves with an added value that lays the foundations for common growth.

Cefalù from the Belvedere

What to do

visit castelbuono for a sweet treat

Only thirty minutes away from Cefalù is Castelbuono, a small, historical village known for the Matrice Vecchia and the sensational Cappella Palatina – these alone are reasons to visit but, if you’re still not convinced then Pasticceria Fiasconaro will. A family business for generations that began with a small ice cream shop in 1953 and later, due to its success, expanded into the patisserie business. Today, the three sons Fausto, Martino and Nicola look after the family business – it’s Nicola Fiasconaro however who took the concept of Northern Italy’s traditional Panettone and combined a mediterranean touch, baking panettoni all year around (and available at the store). WEBSITE

La Nassa Pescaturismo

Two daily outings: in the morning from 9 to 13.30 and in the afternoon from 15.30 to approximately 19.30. The excursion begins from the Port of Cefalù with a tour along the coast to admire the emergencies of historical and architectural interest, such as the megalithic walls, once built to defend the town, or the watchtowers dating back to the Second World War. Then the nets are lowered into the sea and after two or more sails, depending on the fish that has been caught, the route is taken towards one of the coves along the coast. While people go for a swim, snorkel or sunbathe, the crew boys cook their catch on board. WEBSITE

Where to eat

stazione Vucciria

Stazione Vucciria. Ph. Credits Fabio Florio 

A pop-up restaurant that brings a little something new to the culinary scene every year. This summer, Yoji Tokuyoshi will take the reigns of this small coastal eatery. His extensive experience includes working alongside Massimo Bottura’s at the Osteria Francescana and later opened his restaurant in Milan in 2015, with a cuisine that has contaminated his Japanese roots with his adopted Italian ones. At Vucciria, Chef Tokuyoshi will bring a slice of his Bentoteca restaurant to the coastline, where the menu will strictly feature Sicilian, high quality ingredients. WEBSITE

Le Chat Noir

A few steps from the cathedral, a family-run restaurant. Among the ancient stone walls of a sixteenth-century building, Fabio Natoli together with his father Lillo are committed in the kitchen to the creation of typical dishes of the Sicilian tradition, leaving room for innovation. Local fish, protected products (Slow Food presidia). Tasting of Sicilian wines from the Natoli winery. You must try the aubergine parmigiana with salted ricotta and spaghetti with anchovies, home made Bronte pistachio cream, tomato sauce and toasted breadcrumbs. Open for lunch and dinner (closed on Wednesdays). WEBSITE

Bar Duomo

Born in 1952, it is the best place for hand made classic Sicilian pastries or a good granita prepared with fresh fruit, almonds and coffee. With a view of the beautiful cathedral and in the square of Cefalù, here you will also find the famous martorana fruit. WEBSITE

Le Petit Tonneau

A delightful wine bar with a small terrace overlooking the sea to enjoy platters of local cold cuts and cheeses with excellent wines. A stone’s throw from the Medieval Wash House, in an intimate and cozy environment, it is possible to rediscover products of the Sicilian food and wine tradition. The shelves of the wine shop are full of delicacies made in Sicily and here every sin of gluttony is allowed. WEBSITE

The Gallery

Located inside the premises of the Mandralisca Museum, the restaurant offers Sicilian cuisine in an atmosphere of colours, lights, space and design. Spaghettoni with red prawns and lemon scent wins over everything. WEBSITE


Jureka Wine Bar

Located in front of the sea where you can savour some fine wines and cocktails with bruschettoni and fish platters. WEBSITE

Where to Sleep

Le Calette

Le Calette

Suspended over the mediterranean as if it were a balcony, yet hidden behind the towering Rocca di Cefalù, protected, shaded. But not shaded from the sun, no, here at Le Calette you wake up facing the sunrise. The hotel is painted with authenticity; from the moment Francesca Cacciola’s father purchased the building with the intent of creating a summer house for the family to when she, alongside her husband Angelo Miccichè converted it into a hotel that they now runs alongside their daughter Gaia Miccichè. It’s wild, with all the southern, mediterranean vegetation. But with all your luxury necessities. And there’s a rhythm of slowness that symbolises perfectly the Sicilian lifestyle. Cuisine is excellent, with Chef Dario Pandolfo leading Cala Luna with a proposal that enhances the territory with that little ‘something extra’. One of the coolest things? the underwater gym – literally the windows look into the swimming pool! WEBSITE

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