Regional Guide - Sicily
Just one hour's drive east of Palermo, sitting serenely between its natural bay and the towering rocky granite mass of La Rocca, is Cefalu'. For a small town, Cefalu' offers a great deal, including sandy beaches, winding Mediaeval streets flanked with all manner of shops, excellent restaurants serving the freshest of fish and last but probably first, its unique Norman cathedral.
While Cefalu's origins go back to at least Greek times (the name derives from the ancient Greek word for "Cape"), the town we now know and love was built on the behest of the Norman King, Roger II. The Cathedral was begun in 1131 and is an exquisite example of what has been termed "Sicilian Romanesque". Thanks to the splendid mosaic of Christ Pantocrator above the altar, it is twinned with the Palatine Chapel in Palermo and the Duomo in Monreale. Seeing all three on a trip to Sicily is strongly recommended.
An ascent of La Rocca presents quite a challenge (especially in the hot summer months) but is an absolute must: the views are spectacular, while the walls of the old Saracen stronghold and the remains of a Temple of Diana (which supposedly dates back to Sicanian-Greek times) are of major interest.
Directly south of Cefalu is the wonderful Madonie National Park with its charming villages and towns, such as Castelbuono, its delightful scenery, its impressive mountains and some wonderful walking.