This summer I finally got to go to a place that looms large in the imagination of my mother's side of the family. It's a beautiful town on the Tyrrhenian Sea, snugged up to a massive rock headland which provided its name, from the Greek word for head.
You see it here, just east of the "o" in Palermo ~
Because of the feast of Sta. Rosalia messing up all transportation in Palermo, I arrived in Cefalù late at night, losing more than a half day of my precious time there. No matter, I was up bright & early to photograph the nearby train station, the last sight all my maternal great-grandparents had of their home town. I have been assured that the train station has always been in this location, although I doubt it looked this way in the late 1890s. Ahh, morning -- before I felt the heat wave that had southern Europe in its grip ~
This may have been there in the old days. As I was contemplating it, a young guy with an accordion came over to tell me it didn't work. Okay.
Well, enough of that. Time to stroll into town ~
One of the loveliest things about Sicily were these pink oleanders. They were everywhere, along with their soft, sweet perfume ~
Looking at these photos, I see that even with this many pictures, I did not do the cathedral justice. Not only was it my first day in that stunning heat, but I was overly eager to see everything around. I had good intentions of going back and taking in the cathedral again, but it didn't happen. I'll just have to make another visit.
Beachgoers are hard to object to, as they're usually so happy to be where they are. My only objection to them were the ones who'd rented motorbikes and would come wobbling too fast through those narrow streets.
Thanks so much, NYCGirl. I kept trying to make myself go up the Rocca, but damn it was hot -- 3-figure temperatures & high humidity. The view up there is supposed to be spectacular. Yes, you're right about the fortifications. There is a ruined castle dating back to the 13th century with some of its ramparts remaining. Near those ruins are the remains of the so-called Temple of Diana, a building dating back to the 9th century BC. It's believed that it once had a function related to local water worship and that its strategic position probably means it also had a defensive role.
Very, very nice photographs! Cefalù is one of my most favourite places in Sicily, probably because my sister lives there six months a year (she lives in one of those narrow streets in the old centre). I made a photograph (from a different angle) that I have on canvas in our sitting room. Would you mind if I share it here (I don't want to hi-jack your thread!).
What a darling place Bixa! No wonder you set this year aside to visit your ancestral island of Scicily. I can definitely see you coming back several times.
The photos: All outstanding in every aspect. The angles you found through that camera lens are wonderful! I see we are going to be treated to a lot more! That last photo of the old wooden door. The ancient padlock positioned near to the modern Yale lock....who would have thought we could see them together!
Thanks, Bjd! You should know that Cefalù has excellent feng shui, with the supportive mountain behind and the water in front.
Thank you, Mossie -- very kind. You have a good eye, as the cathedral is yet another example of Roger II using Byzantine craftsmen to adorn a church he built to attest to his own greatness. If you like a little history, scroll down in this link to below the pictures for a look at the Normans in Sicily and Britain.
Amboseli, the next time I go it would be so great to coordinate and we could meet there! Yes, please -- I'd love to see your picture.
Thank you so much, Tod! And yes there will be a lot more.
Before I left for this trip my cousin Jerry in Louisiana set it up so I could contact some relatives in Cefalù. I made contact with some via Facebook, but was still shy about showing up 115+ years after the fact and saying, "Hi there -- I'm family!" So it was a great fun surprise when I was summoned from my hotel room one evening to find my lively and lovely cousin Rosa Maria Aquia along with her very amiable husband Gio waiting in the lobby. We managed to converse and confuse in several languages, helped along by the English-speaking desk man. Rosa Maria is a moving force in Cefalù for Cefaludesi nel mondo. Clicking the link will take you to the newspaper section and information on the association. If you click the masthead, you'll be taken to the main newspaper.
Rosa Maria brought me a large family tree and we pored over it, establishing our mutual degree of relationship and how we connected with others in the family. Afterward we went to a nearby plaza for a beer and by luck came across Cosimo Rinaudo. He is Rosa Maria's first cousin and my cousin through both his parents. (I'm including family names here as I'll be linking this thread to some genealogical sites. To preserve privacy, there won't be pictures of individuals except in one case where I just can't help myself.) I was very glad to meet Cosimo -- because he's a swimming coach he was swamped by preparations for a major swim championship & had no free time. As you can see here, his dedication paid off.
Cefalù is of course very famous in Italy as both an historical place and as a beach resort. And justly so, judging from our report here so far. Eagerly await more, if I had an Ape like my father does, I'd be tempted to festoon it with garlic as well.
Hey ~ thanks, Fumobici! Yes, it was a regular United Nations reeking of suntan lotion stampeding up and down the town. I can't imagine what it must have been like in August. I guess by the end of this month the town will be its regular self. Would love to see it then. Glad you enjoyed the sharp-tongued pasta. The word is close enough to the Spanish word (suegra) that I got the joke immediately. What's an Ape, as I assume you're not referring to the hairy primate?
A peek at the old town beach ~
This is a pharmacy! The guy in the white coat let me take pictures, but he was yakking with some woman & I never got the story on these operatic cabinets ~
I would also like to take this opportunity to stick out my (only bilingual) tongue at all the people who assured me that Spanish would work just as well in Italy as Italian would. Even in my lazy, neglected-to-study way I knew that wasn't true -- a belief shored up by the fact that I mostly can't read Italian and don't understand it in movies. This would be because they are two separate languages: ape is abeja in Spanish & vespa is avispa. Now that you all have given me the English meanings for the Italian words, I can see the relationship, but to me anyway, it's not all that intuitive.
Bjd, that's how pharmacies are here, too, but without the fancy cabinets, ditto in Turkey. I did manage to get some really wonderful sinus medication from a pharmacy in Sicily by acting out sinus trouble.
Apologies to all for the lag in finishing this thread -- 3D life and all that. More pics coming soon.
Fabulous Bixa! I am enjoying this report very much. Incredibly beautiful place. I would love an opportunity to swim at one of those beaches someday.
I quite enjoy stopping in at pharmacies in the countries we visit. I had an interesting time once trying to explain a condition and it was so satisfying when the pharmacist finally said "Ah!" and produced a product that did indeed help.
Thank you so much, Mich. You would have swooned at the water there. I kept taking off my sunglasses and also double-checking my photos against the real thing because I couldn't believe anything could be that blue, that perfect. And it was so clear, too. You are right that there is a feeling of triumph in getting ones point across mostly in pantomime. I'm just glad I didn't have an embarrassing or intimate problem.
Thank you, Amboseli! Since you've been there, you can tell this is a really personal report. The next time I go I promise to be a more responsibly reporting tourist.
Now it's my next to the last day in this town. The night before I'd talked to my cousin Giovanni Papa's wife on the phone was invited to their home for supper tonight.
Some random shots from that day ~
Taking a break for the pause that refreshes, I'm cheerfully reminded of where I am ~
Giovanni picked me up at my hotel. At first we were shy with each other, but well before the night was over his wonderful personality and innate kindness had completely captivated me. We are the same generation, but he brought out pictures of his mother to show that she & I resembled each other. This was a point in my favor!
When he opened the door to the house, I couldn't believe the ambrosial aromas coming from the kitchen. Giovanni's gorgeous, warm & witty wife Concetta and their sweet movie star beauty of a daughter, Sandy had created a heavenly feast. Let me tell you, these ladies are major kitchen talents! They laid out exquisite Sicilian cold cuts & cheese, melon with thinly sliced ham, sliced zucchini & eggplant served cold with garlic, and room temperature eggplant parmigian, along with home-processed anchovies. It all sounds perfect for a hot weather dinner, doesn't it? I ate a decent amount & then a little more because it was pressed on me and because it was so good. Come to find out ............................... THAT WAS ONLY THE APPETIZER!
Concetta then brought out massive swordfish steaks, perfectly breaded & baked, with a large side salad of green beans & tomato. I tried, really I did, but could not finish it despite its deliciousness, because I was so full.
So THEN she brings out fruit -- cherries & watermelon. I had brought little Sicilian pastries only to find out that they'd also bought pastries, which of course were trotted out with, "You have to try this one!" I have never been so full in my life, and those who know me will attest to my ability to really really eat.
We sat and yakked and I couldn't believe how the time flew -- it was embarrassingly late when I left. Oh, and then Concetta made up food for me to take with me!
Giovanni had told me he wanted to give me a nessa (hope I'm spelling that right), so we went down to his workshop on the way to the car. Wow! Here is a look at just one of his hobbies, a work in progress ~
An earlier work, this one is a model of his brother's boat ~
You all may have surmised from the surroundings that he is a fisherman. He makes all these nets!
He gives me a demonstration, although his hands are flying too fast to capture ~
And now he presents me with my nessa. Perhaps you all remember I pointed one out at the very beginning of this thread. Well, this one is mine and I couldn't be more pleased. Thank you, Giovanni!
What an amazing surprise to see the workshop. The fishing nets look perfect, as does the big model boat.
The photos of the city make it look more and more charming. Was there a big concentration of hotels and trattoria near the beach, or were things more spread out?
Among my favourite pictures, though, is the one of the cats waiting for their share of the fish, and the views of the interior of the grocery store.
Also, the order of the languages used in the display of guidebooks probably corresponds to the pecking order of the tourists who go there. I know that certain parts of Sicily get completely overrun by the French in the summer.
Another wonderful array of photos Bixa! Everything is SO interesting! Your family certainly treated you very well. I can imagine the ladies of the family trying to decide what to prepare and each wishing to put their favourite dish before you.
I think the town of Cefalu is absolutely charming. I think you have lots of us interested in this alternative destination dear heart!