This morning six of our group who have arrived early take a train to the lovely seaside village of Cefalù, home to one of the nine structures comprising the UNESCO World Heritage Site: Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale. The train is packed with people, and we know when we’ve reached the correct stop – the entire train empties out. This is a very popular tourist destination, and we can quickly see why – it has lovely streets leading down to the waterfront, a massive promontory at its back with the remains of a Saracenic castle on its summit.
We follow the crowds on a lovely pedestrian street leading to the Cathedral, popping in to see the Church of St. Stefano along the way. The walkway opens into a piazza with an eye-popping view of the massive Cathedral. Construction began in 1131 by King Roger (not a particularly romantic name). It is in the Norman style of architecture with two massive four-story towers on each side of the façade.
Once inside, the eye is immediately drawn to the apse and the gigantic image of Christ the Pantocrator. It is truly one of the best-preserved mosaics of that time period.
We wander on down to the waterfront to see the town from a different angle and see who’s out and about and frolicking on the beach.
One of the more interesting sights at the waterfront was the Medieval Wash House, built so that the Cefalino River flows through it is about to reach its mouth at the sea. The water is channeled through spouts and into pools with washing stones built right into them. You can just imagine the village folk scrubbing and gossiping about their neighbors in medieval days.
Next, we visit the “Cove of the Pirates” restaurant and snag a fabulous table overlooking the port for a marvelous lunch.
We continue walking along the waterfront and then head back up to the train station for our return trip to Palermo. This evening the entire group gathers for the first time for introductions followed by our welcome dinner at a nearby restaurant called “Chin-Chin.” Four courses of deliciousness! The tour is now officially up and running.