We tried not to linger too long in Savoca, as we knew we had a big day of driving ahead of us to get to Cefalu in a reasonable time. To make up for this, we took the expressway, which even though it was a much longer distance, was a (predicted) much shorter journey time.
To make things a little more fun, we left the motorway early and stopped in at some of the small coastal towns on the way, starting at Capo d’Orlando. The water was a beautiful shade of blue, and the sun was shining, however we were content just watching from the comfort of our car.
After a while of aimlessly driving through small coastal town after small coastal town, Risa was starting to get hungry, so we made an effort to find a restaurant for some lunch. I don’t know if it’s due to it being outside of the peak season, but it was surprisingly hard to find a restaurant (that was open). There were gelati shops every block, but we were searching for something a little more substantial.
After a while, we ended at a larger town, Sant’Agata di Militello, where we parked up and decided to find food on foot. The first challenge was understanding the public parking system (hint: buy scratch cards from the Tobacco shops, and display them in your window), but the shops selling the tickets were all closed due to siesta. We asked a local policeman, and explained our position, to which he looked at our car and said not to worry. Hard to have full faith in his statement, but we were left with very little other choices!
Close to where we’d parked was a rather large market (though nothing like Narantuul in Mongolia) that seemed to sell everything, other than food. It was a bit of a laugh to see the things for sale, and the enthusiastic vendors (though in a good way, unlike in Turkey). Risa couldn’t stop laughing at the candy shop with the rave soundtrack blasting out.
We had a quick calzone from a gelataria then made our way to Cefalu without wasting any time. The road was mostly empty, and it beautifully wound its way along the coastline, giving beautiful views.
The fun stopped rather abruptly when we arrived in Cefalu, and realised just how much of a nightmare it was going to be to park. The streets were mostly one-way, with parking down one side. We’d purposely booked a small car (a Ford Ka), but the one time we really didn’t want it, we were upgraded to a Volvo V40, which while still being a reasonably small car, was far too large for many of the small parks on the side of the road. Fortunately, we found a huge field by the beach that was a paid parking area (€5 for 12 hours), so we parked up and walked to our cheap hostel.
We were a little shocked by how good the view of the town was on our walk in from the car park. Something about the density of the old town with its dominating church, and the rugged mountain right behind. It wasn’t quite the same as Savoca, but Sicily was proving to be far more beautiful than I had given it credit.
Our hotel, Dolce Vita, was recommended in Lonely Planet, and the price was pretty reasonable, so we gave it a shot. It was a long way from the luxury we’d had the night before in Savoca, however it had a certain charm – especially the rear balcony overlooking the ocean.
Risa was in heaven with the narrow alleyways, and if left on her own, she’d probably wander around for an entire day. If we’d been more prepared, we would have grabbed some takeaway pizza (and a sneaky beer) and watched the sun set from the shore, however we were caught unprepared, so settled for a couple of minutes of relaxing, taking in the final moments of sunlight as it rapidly slipped behind the horizon. Coming from the east coast of Australia, it’s still such a novelty for me to see the sun set beyond the sea.
I opted to get a take-away pizza and watch the remaining glow of the sunset. However, that boat had already sailed, and by the time our pizza was ready, it was dark and I’d forgotten to take in to account the suddenly chilling temperatures. Risa chose a local style pizza, forgetting exactly what it was. Unfortunately, she was pretty disappointed with her ‘pizza sandwich’, which was a pizza base that was split open, and stuffed with ricotta, tomato and eggplant. My buffalo cheese and prosciutto parma pizza was truly divine, making hers all the much worse.
After a quick breakfast on the balcony, we checked out of Dolce Vita B&B and made our way up the to the ancient fort of Rocca di Cefalu.
It was a short but steep hike, and I could imagine on a summer’s day it being quite challenging – the attendants at the gate actually check that you have water, which is a nice touch. It took about 45 minutes to reach the top, where we were treated with amazing views of the coastline – and an amazing cool breeze. There wasn’t much left of the castle, so it didn’t take long to make our way around.
Lower on the mountain was the megalithic Temple of Diana, and phenomenal views out over the old town. This is the view I was hoping for while climbing, and it didn’t disappoint.
We made a quick trip to see inside the Cefalu Cathedral, which was a lot older than I realised, having been built nearly 1000 years ago. The Norman style was quite different to the other churches, and to me it closer resembled a fort. The interior was quite simple, with small, basic stained glass windows, and mostly bare white walls. The fact that it was free entry made it all the more enjoyable!
Cefalu proved to be another surprise hit for us, and provided a second day that closely rivalled our first. Hopefully Sicily can continue its charm over the next few days.