Cefalu is an hour's train ride east of Palermo at a cost of 12 euros return. This relatively close distance means it's still part of the province of Palermo.
Actually I had such a nice afternoon a few days ago that I've chosen to revisit it but this time round I've come for more than a wander as I have a target in mind.
Yep, climbing nearly 300 meters to the very top of 'La Rocca' - that giant heap of stone. T'was easier said that done believe me.
First though, some images from my first afternoon here which was a slightly overcast, bus still very enjoyable day. Oh what I would have done to have swapped that day's weather for the scorching weather I had for the hike.
The Chefalu Cathedral is a pleasing tourist attraction but with so many churches visited this year, I took more of an interest in one of Sicily's most famous local dishes: Arancini. Granted, having the cathedral as the backdrop made lunch a pretty special experience.
Arancini are stuffed rice balls that are coated with breadcrumbs, and fried. They come with a variety of fillings and often, if you are having them cooked completely fresh, you can even choose your own fillings! Here we had one which was minced beef based and the other mozzarella.
Time to walk off the food with a wander down the many side streets and ultimately to the coastline. On route I managed to catch a cat having an afternoon siesta :-)
I arrived for my second visit to Cefalu around 3pm with that one very specific intention - climbing 'La Rocca'. It was noticeably warmer than my last visit but undeterred, and with a reasonable amount of walking and hiking behind me these last six months, I foolishly mistook this for just another hike. However this turned out to be the hardest hike I've had to-date.
You see La Rocca isn't just a random mountain; it actually is steeped in history itself with evidence of human activity dating back to prehistoric times. The sacred megalithic building known as the Temple of Diana was built in 5th century BC! After the fall of the Roman Empire, the people moved up on the mountain because it gave them better protection from the pirates.
These days it costs 4 euros to access the path and with that you get a little map from non-English speaking people, a notification that doors shut at 19.30pm, and then a tap of the back to get you on your merry way. To be fair, the man did also ask if I wanted to buy "acqa" - pointing to his cool box stash of still and fizzy water.
'No Grazie' I said, as I had a small sized bottle in my rucksack and off I went.
Pretty spectacular huh.
Here are some views from the opposite side of the mountain from those previous images. Most of these were taken upon reaching the top.
Voila! One happy man.
What those pictures don't show though is that I finished that bottle of water I brought with me in the first 45 minutes and spent the remainder of my time slightly delirious - lol.
Relatedly, one of my lasting memories during this extended water outage was that despite being desperate for fluid, I still needed the toilet at one point on the trek. Although I hadn't been for many hours, this still surprised me as I thought my body would have soaked up this up to combat dehydration during but apparently not and so this didn't stop me from needing a wee! Anyhow, it was during this act of light relief high up in the mountain that 'the' thought crossed my mind and I know you know what I mean. As in, should I wee into my now empty bottle of water to save it and possibly drink from it when I need to. Normal Saturday night behaviour for some Army lads back in the UK but very abnormal a consideration for me.
Now you understand I really wasn't exaggerating when I said it was tough. Also the path to the top wasn't, as the song goes, paved with good intentions. It was super-challenging and as far from ideal terrain as you can imagine. At various points I was convinced I was going the wrong way such were conditions. It took me over 2 hours to reach the very top and to then also get back down to the very bottom and I'm not a fit person. Granted, that's with various photo stops but you're still talking at least 1.5 hours to accomplish this and that's assuming you don't pass out with exhaustion on route.
Here is a 'top of the rock' photo which is the single highest point. I was so happy to have reached here, I really was.
Here is a photo of me having returned to the very bottom.
Granted, I semi-ran back down successfully having avoided all sorts of various sized rocks and using gravity over my own stopping power as I was so exhausted and fluid derived.
Top tip: A day trip to Cefalu is definitely worth a visit but if you're thinking of climbing 'La Rocca', I advise appropriate footwear, average outside temperature and plenty of water.