Sicily: Palermo and Cefalù

April 10th, 2015. Categories / Italy, Sicily

Before sunrise on Monday, J and I walked a mile through the empty streets of Venice to Piazzale Roma and caught a bus to the airport.

We landed in Palermo under two hours later, took the hour-long train ride to the central station, and walked fifteen minutes through the trash-filled streets to our bed and breakfast.

The hosts were exceedingly friendly, perhaps to make up for the grungy neighborhood and average rooms. It was a family-run place: a hand-kissing husband, the talkative wife, and a daughter in town to help out.

My mother and sister returned from getting coffee and we caught up on their adventures from the day before.

We wandered the neighborhood to figure out the bus system.

image
Inner courtyard of the bed and breakfast.
image
Plant city.
image
My bodyguards.
image
Nearby church entrance.

Our first stop that afternoon was the Catacombe dei Cappuccini. This vast burial chamber under an unassuming building in the outskirts of the city contains about 1252 mummies, separated into different rooms.

The variety and amount of bodies, dress, and decay is fascinating. Some are skeletal, others have hair and skin. Some seem ready to pop off the wall or bust out of their coffin and walk the halls.

No photos were allowed.

image
One of many mummy-filled hallways.*
image
Nope, not creepy at all.*

Afterward, we walked to Cappella Palatina only to find it closed for the day.

We found a popular restaurant nearby in one of the side streets. It was full of happy families eating together. Kids ran around the fish of the day display and landscaping. We ordered a delicious meal of pastas and fish. It would prove to be one of the more authentic, pleasant, and delicious meals of Sicily.

image
Castello della Zisa.
image
Colorful gate.
image
Abandoned apartment near the SEXY DUCK adult movie store.
image
Shutters.
image
Big cactus, small car.
image
Mom and her Fiat.
image
In every alley, people were grilling meats on little grills.
image
Stalled road improvement.
image
Overgrown with flowers.
image
Narrow alley.
image
More chilling and grilling.
image
Sicilian tuktuk.
image
Sedimentary posters.
image
Can I pet your bird, Charles?
image
Looking up at Quattro Canti.
image
Fontana Pretoria.
image
Two old doors.
image
Back alley scenery.
image
Old flats.
image
Daubed concrete.
image
M and the massive ficus in Villa Garibaldi.
image
Luchador badger prison.

Tuesday morning, we checked out of the hotel and walked to the train station. I bought us tickets to Cefalù (€5.50 each), and we waited for the next train at a coffee shop my mother and sister had gone to a few days before.

image
Cool cat.
image
Our train.

Palermo didn’t leave the best impression. It was grungy, falling apart, and full of sketchy-looking men loitering around. The epicenter of this is the area around the train station, but that was expected.

We didn’t have time to disprove our first impressions.

Outside the train window, the crumbling city quickly transitioned to small oceanside homes and farms of citrus, artichokes, olives, and greens.

After an hour, we arrived in Cefalù. Our lanky AirBnB host met us at the station and quickly led us into town.

The apartment was at the start of the old town, up some stairs from the main road. For our group, the layout was perfect: large kitchen/living room, two bedrooms on the first floor, one bedroom upstairs, and 1.5 baths. The large balcony overlooked the rooftops of the neighboring homes, and offered a sliver of view to the ocean. The only downsides were no wifi and a sitting shower that made it hard to not spray water all over the floor.

image
Steps to the apartment.
image
The roof, the roof, the roof has been fired.
image
Our water view.
image
The rock out the front door.

We unloaded our bags and strolled through town, checking out the cathedral. We turned east at the end of the main road and followed the water to the lighthouse.

The ocean was many perfect shades of blue. The large, cottony clouds drifted inland.

A touristy-looking, but empty, restaurant with an awesome view served a decent meal of fish, grilled vegetable, and risotto. The host (and possibly cook) was talkative and enthusiastic.

image
Shrine.
image
Pinky’s dream.
image
One of numerous types of pistachio balls we ate.
image
The cathedral exterior with the rock to the right.
image
The cathedral interior.
image
Beach path.
image
Our lunch view of town.
image
Such blues!
image
Lost in fiction.
image
Wild fennel.
image
A cool looking peninsula with ruins on it.
image
Wild figs.
image
Two entrances.
image
Meat, plate, bone, bulb.
image
A spigot from the medieval laundry area.
image
The laundry area fed by springs and draining into the sea.
image
Gas.
image
Balconies.
image
A view of the sandy beach.
image
Energy gate.

That afternoon, J and my sister and I hiked up the massive “rock” towering behind the city (€3 each at the trailhead).

Some remains of the ancient city are still visible on the hike, along with an ancient temple of Doric architecture. On the summit of the promontory are extensive remains of a Saracenic castle.

The walk was all uphill, and fairly strenuous. Wildflowers bloomed everywhere and a few trees provided shade.

At the top of the rock, the view was incredible: water on three sides and the green mountainous land of Sicily on the other.

image
Crunch time.
image
The first little view.
image
One of the smaller old cisterns.
image
Looking up to the old castle.
image
Settlement ruins.
image
Flowers on the precipice.
image
Another view of the peninsula.
image
The reconstructed castle wall.
image
Looking east.
image
J on the wall.
image
Hiking through the woods to the rest of the ruins.
image
A temple from before Christ.
image
Vertigo view.
image
Old bread oven.
image
Heraldic old men.

We bought groceries after the hike and my mother prepared dinner at the apartment. It almost felt like we were a traditional Italian family.

After dinner, I slaughtered them play the card game Thirteen.

On Wednesday, we went to the beach and explored the city some more. My personal goal was to find and pat as many stray cats as possible.

A large amount of different types of police were on patrol. Their focus seemed to be around the main plaza, and my mother deduced that a shop might have been robbed.

I struggled with a sluggish ticket kiosk at the train station. It had numerous disconnection errors before I was able to purchase our forward tickets to Catania (€12 each).

We ate a fancy seafood lunch and saved money by having eggs and potatoes at the apartment for dinner.

image
Produce.
image
Another stroll on the beach with tons of sail jellyfish littering the sand.
image
What do you mean you won’t pull my finger?
image
Boulder blocking wall.
image
Dilapidation voyuerism.
image
Pipes.
image
View from the cat’s domain.
image
Strays.
image
Tile steps.
image
Shrine.
image
Water access.
image
May I help you?
image
What a bird sees.
image
Olive branch.
image
Archway view.
image
Garage and caution tape.
image
Someone’s backyard cave.

Thursday morning, we hauled our bags to the nearly empty Cefalù train station and waited for our noon train to Catania via Messina.

image
If the trains don’t kill you, the electricity will.
image
Waiting is the hardest part.

The beachside town was a nice relief from Palermo tension. Any place with beautiful water, old buildings, narrow alleys, pretty hiking trails, and plenty of stray cats isn’t a place I’m in a rush to leave from.

*Photo via internet.

3 Comments


Irene Ellis:

I know that your mom has wanted to go to Sicily for a long time. I am glad that she got there. Wonderful photos.

Val:

There are so many incredible photos in this post that I lost count. Some of those seaside vista pictures are incredible, and I love the old castle. The adventure is in full swing. What a trip, dude!!

Leslie Daum:

Photos are amazing and yet they only capture a hint of the reality. I’m anxiously awaiting the Cantania blog!

Leave a Comment