Tag Archives: Cefalu

Italy, Sicily day 7 Cefalu, Just Be & Be, and Piraino



The Beach between Centro Storico and the newer residential area



One of Many Piazzas in Cefalu

We got our signals crossed the next morning.  We thought Laura would be by at noon, she dropped by at 11 while we were packing.  Graciously, she said she’d come back at noon.  She also offered to have her husband take me to our car on his scooter and have me follow him back to the apartment going around “The Rock”.  Memories of XO tours Vietnam collided in my head, good memories.


Centro Storico: Typical Cefalu


Old Town looking toward New Town

True to her word, Laura and her husband arrived at noon and I had a fun motor bike ride through old town to my car.  Negotiating Cefalu for a novice could be just as challenging as Vietnam.  Laura’;s family has lived in Cefalu for generations.  I assume her husband has as well.  He was excellent at negotiating the cars and pedestrians, stopping a number of times, here and there to greet friends .  Cefalu is full of one way streets and a ZTL zone.  GPS is useless in the town.  It is confusing at best without a “guide”.  We drove back around the rock with me following closely behind, driving into the narrow pedestrian filled streets of old town. It was fun and challenging.  We parted with Laura and her husband with the typical Italian parting: two kisses on either cheek and “ciaos” all around.  We really enjoyed Larua, it would have been fun for us to get to know them better.  Then again, we were in Cefalu for a few days then gone.   I wish we could have stayed longer.


We Counted 64 Tunnels between Cefalu and Piraino!

Familiar with the Italian Nav System, I punched in Piraino and off we went.  The GPS guided us out of town and onto the autostrada with ease.  Italian roads are typically in very good condition, though there is constant road work.  Italian drivers take the speed limit as a suggestion.  As I drove the 100 km from Cefalu to Piraino, my speed slowly inched up as I was constantly being passed, sometimes by traffic going 40 kph faster.  Often at 120kph or 140kph Ellen would suggest I slow down.  Most times I did.  The Italians have no trouble closing one direction of a highway for 10 or 20 kilometers.  The funnel traffic into one lane, then guide traffic across the median and into one of on-coming lanes, which had been cleared of traffic.  This leads to situations where the speed limit can go from 110kph to 40kph in a reasonable amount of time, but only if you’re aware of what is going on.   Over a 100km stretch there might be five of these.


A Panoramic View from a Ridge Crest in Northern Sicily

Tunnels, Sicily has a vast number of tunnels. I counted 64 of them between Cefalu and Piraino alone.  Some were short, many were very long, and some had oncoming traffic in the left lane due to highway repair.   Northern Sicily is very mountainous; the drive is beautiful.

As we approached Piraino, we used the instructions Chantal had given us to locate Just Be & b.  Google maps cannot locate the property. Just Be & b is located over a ridge close to the top of the rise overlooking the sea.  As we climbed up toward the small town of Piraino, Ellen grew more and more suspicious.  “Is this really where we’re going?”  “Where are we staying”. When the old town of Piraino came into view around a turn, Ellen was half surprised and half worried that we were staying somewhere in town.  “Are there restaurants?”  or “Where are we going to eat?” Piraino is small.  There are good restaurants in the surrounding hills, but they are isolated and hard to find.


We topped the rise and descended on a very narrow road.  I had scouted this location with Google maps and drove right by the location Google had set for “Just Be & b”. Clearly GPS was again outright wrong.  The road widened out and turned just ahead of a very well maintained house.  A husband and wife sat on a patio watching come down the road with disinterest.  “This cannot be the place”, I thought.  We turned the corner and both saw the white gate and pink house that mark the B&B.  We’re here.  Ellen was still not sure this is where she wanted to just Be & b.  I rang the bell and waited for some time trying not to be rude and ring the bell a second time.  A woman approached welcoming and asked if I was Ron. “Yes”, the gate opened and as I dutifully carried our bags to our room, Ellen had a tour of the property and got to know the owner’s mom.  The owner is a Swiss German whom we met sometime later.


Relaxing at Just Be & b, Piraino, Sicily

We sat admiring the view as a beer, prosecco, and fruit arrived on a cart.  The room was large, clean, and fully functional. The view from Just Be & b is spectacular.  What I felt most was a sense of peacefulness and calm.  The grounds below the main house are terraced with various edible plants and fruit trees planted here and there.  It has the feel of a work in progress being carefully maintained with a plan for sustainable growth.


Limpari, a large comfortable room


A very comfortable bed.  We slept very well here.

We were offered a ride to a local restaurant around 7:15 pm if we liked.  Yes, we would like that.  I could relax with no concern for driving or parking for a day.  The beer and prosecco hit the spot.  We walked the grounds then collapsed into bed for a rest.  We found a note on our door at 7:15 that stated our ride would be available at 7:30.   An example of German Precision.  At 7:30 Chantal arrived with her boy friend and family.  They had returned from and outing of some sort, exited the vehicle (a large SUV) and Ellen and I jumped in.  Chantal whisked us to a restaurant up and over a nearby ridge.  She drove carefully, without hesitation, and reasonably fast, as a local would.  We arrived to find another couple, also guests at the B&B being seated.


The Restaurant was cool and I bundled up.


The Food was  a Continental Italian Fusion,

We kept to ourselves for mot of our meal.  Enjoying the suggestions the owner/chef made.  In fact he ordered for us,. We would have it no other way.  Our dinner was Italian inspired with a Swiss-German twist.  It was very good.  Toward the end of the meal we struck up a conversation with the other couple.  A German doctor and his wife, a striking Indian woman.  We hit it off and had a wide ranging discussion that evening.  We exchanged cards. They drove us back to the B&B.

Ellen and I have “retired traveler” “business” cards printed.  This gets around writing extraneous information on napkins.

Exhausted, night faded into sunrise and breakfast time.  Chantal has had a breakfast house built on a terrace just below the bungalows.  It is glass enclosed to take advantage of the view, and modestly but comfortably appointed.  I asked for a double macchiato and received something closer to a pint of foamed milk with two shots of espresso floating mid glass.  It was a work of art.  Not what I expected, but welcome nonetheless.   That plus a croissant was enough for me.


Breakfast with a View of The World.

While Ellen busied herself with her breakfast choices, I said, “buongiorno”, renewing our acquaintance with the German couple who were seated outside.  Conversation flows easily with like minded people.  Easy if both speak a common language, English in this case.  I’ve studied German, Russian, some French, and lately Italian.  I envy Europeans who can speak two or often five other languages.  The German fellow is an anesthesiologist and an expert in pain medication. We discussed the current opioid crisis, which is international in scope.  He feels (and I agree) that some pain is a good thing and that masking pain can have ill effects. That pain the the body’s feedback loop for repair.   Chronic pain is a different animal and must be treated differently, but in both cases prescribing highly addictive pain medication is absolutely the wrong long-term approach.   We also talked politics, and the funny, unimaginable, and scary ascension of “the Donald” and Brexit on the world stage. While stating that “Angle Markel is not my party”, Mark also has high regard for her integrity.  I cannot say the same for the U.S. current administration.  We talked health care and ceilings on doctor’s earnings in Germany, something I did not know about.  At some point I realized my breakfast was getting cold and begged off.


Buddha with our breakfast.

We resumed our conversation on the veranda after breakfast.  They live in the historic section of Wiesbaden on the Rhine, in Germany’s wine region for Riesling wine.  He exports wine to India.  We exchanged offers to come stay at each other’s homes.   Mark warned that they do travel and would likely take us up.  “Fine, I said.  That would be our pleasure!”.  If we get bored with Florence this trip, we could always drop in on Mark and Dorothy.

It was later in the day than expected as we loaded the car and drove away. The amazing view from high atop the hillside, the care the owners show in the B&B, and Chantal’s concern for nature and the environment make our brief stay here memorable, perhaps unforgettable.  When leaving Chantal mentioned that the drive down the hill is faster than going up and around.  The road is very narrow and without barriers in whole sections.  She prefers that road as it is scenic and fun to drive.  We chose to take the downhill route and were not disappointed.  It was steep in many secitons.  Single lane practically the whole way with hairpin turns everywhere.  It was a blast, though I took it slowly for any number of reasons.


One hairpin turn after another on a steep downgrade, fun.


Out of the mountain, stopped for the view

The Nav system guided us to the autostrade and we reached Messina in an hour thirty with our speed varying between 40 kph and 150kph.  The Nav system could not identify the address of our next apartment!  My very inexpensive Italian smart phone could and guided us right to the door.  I parked in a blue parking zone, a pay zone, without paying and called in.  The owner would meet us in five minutes.  GREAT.  They had been trying to reach me via email and on my California number. I keep my US phone turned off most times now to avoid ATT’s pricing.   It all worked out in the end.

Off to Tindari on the way to Messina.

Italy, Sicily day 6, Cefalu



Cefalu, The Rock, the Town, the Bay


Jetlag is finito. Now if only my cold would “poof” and be gone.


Between Sky and Sea is cozy and comfortable for two people.  It has a view over rooftops to the ocean. A derelict building’s bell tower stands tall, a proud reminder of past glory.  With the porch door open, I hear Cefalu waking up to the sound of passers by chatting and the occasional car or motorbike.   It is early morning.  I let Ellen sleep while I write.


The apartment is the smallest we’ve rented thus far.  The bedroom is fine.  The dining/living room can be a squeeze with our computers, phones, and cameras and the two of us scattered about.  We would have moved the table out on the porch, but mornings and evenings are cool.  I’m inside with the heater running.  Aside from its size, everything in Between Sky and Sea works.  There is surprisingly good water pressure and plenty of hot water.   The shower is tiny even by Italian standards.  That’s fine, we spend little time in the shower anyway.  I feel relaxed even comforted by the azure sea view.


Sunset from our Balcony


Living and Dining Room With a View!


The Small But Functional Kitchen


The Bedroom Ceiling

Up and out, we head for morning coffee.  Laura recommended “the shop beside the farmacia”.  As we turned onto the Piazza Duomo, a barker stopped us and offered a table.  Ellen hesitated and we almost sat.  “let’s get something for my cold at the Farmacia first”, popped into my head and out of my lips.  Ellen agreed and we said we’d be back.

“Buongiorno, I’d like something for my throat”, I said to the pharmacist, motioning to my throat.  Though my voice is so bad that probably wasn’t necessary. “Caramelle or “ and here he motioned toward his mouth as if spraying something and said, “tsh tsh”. “non caramelle, per favore”. “Utilizzare due or tre volte al giorno.”  “OK”

We walked out of the shop with a small fire-hydrant looking thing with a twist nozzle.  Fascinating, but how the heck does this thing work?  It took a few tries to figure that you press down on the “hydrant’s” top after twisting the fire hose up and stuffing that down my throat.  This stuff works!

Next we stopped at “our” coffee shop, the one Laura recommended.  “Salve, un cappuccino, un macchiado doppio, e due crema crossianti per favore”, we had our usual coffee and a bit more.  I should have ordered “due cornetti alla crema”.  Macchiado means spotted; it’s an espresso with a dollop of foamed milk.  We sat outside in the semi-sun, it was partly cloudy this morning.  We loosely planned our day: first find a supermercato for supplies and things we didn’t pack (we travelled very light), then perhaps walk the archeological site Laura mentioned, assuming we could find it.

My cheap TIM Samsung has been great for navigating with no worries about running out of data.  Google “markets around me” and we were off.  Funny, it guided us to the small market where we purchased menthol drops the evening before.  It is a market, but not what we’re after.  We headed out of Centro Storico to the new part of Cefalu toward where we parked the car.  I had to pay for another half day parking anyway.

At the Parcheggio, I showed my first hand written parking paper to the attendant and said I wanted to stay through 14:00 the next day.  No problem, 10 euro, another hand written note and we were good. With both notes placed on our dash, we were off.  I approached a fellow leaning on his car, clearly a local, “Scusa, dov’e un supermercato, per favore?” Not skipping beat the fellow pointed down the street, “dritto a quattrocentro metri poi andate a sinistra. E li”  “Grazie”  No problem.  The fellow was missing his two front teeth.  That didn’t seem to bother him at all.

Typical for us, we followed his instructions, but probably turned up a street too soon.  Another block down we asked the same question at a hotel. The concierge looked surprised, “dritto attraverso la strada” and pointed across the street. “Grazie”.  We did turn one street too soon!  There was “Deco”, the large name supermarket.  It takes some getting used to:: parking at the market is not free, carts to get your groceries out to your car are not free.  Many little conveniences are a few cents extra.  One restaurant charged us 4 euro each for our seat out under an awning! It’s not a problem, just one of those things in Italy.


The Local Chain Supermercato


Where To Buy Hair Dryers, Washers, Refrigerators, etc.

Walking back toward the hotel I noticed a huge sign “Musotto elettrodomestici”.   “No, I thought.  It couldn’t be.”  I steered Ellen toward the entrance and saw a hair dryer in a display case on the far wall.  We exchanged Buongiorno’s with an early 40’s woman who was probably a co-owner of the shop.  She spoke some English and we speak fluent “gesture Italian”.   Right away Ellen had a flat iron in her hands.  Being particular about things, Ellen asked if perhaps they had one that was wider/bigger.  Yes. But that iron came in combination with a hair dryer at 40 euros versus 20 euro.  Ellen left with her flat iron and without an extra hairdryer.  Today was a glorious day in the world of frizzy hair.  The sun was shining bright.

We passed a shop selling socks, calze (duolingo actually works!).  Both Ellen and I need more socks.  Ellen because her sneakers drag her socks into the shoe.  Me because I packed very very light.  The shopkeeper, a short older gal, spoke no English, none.  But she loved to talk. This was perfect, what an opportunity to practice Italian.  More often the Italians want to practice their English.  We purchased calze and tried to leave the shop twice.  Each time one of us would say something and conversation was off again.  We could easily have spend an hour there just chatting away.

On our way back we watched movers taking care of business.  I often wondered how large pieces of furniture were moved three or four floors up super narrow steep stairways.  Here’s the obvious solution.

IMG_1473 (2)

Ahh, THAT’s how you do it!


Not for Tourists, Repairing a Fish Net!

Dining in Italy

Ellen and I agreed that as much as we could, we would eat lunch as our main meal to keep some of the pounds off.  Walking back from our “sock gal” we looked for a place to have lunch.  Laura had recommended two local ristoranti.  We passed one of them on our way back “home”, Kenlia.  With no hesitation we went in for lunch.  It was now around 2pm.  The restaurant was mostly empty.  We were ushered to our table without noticing much but the view of the bay.  There were two other couples, and a multi-generational group of Russians.  We were pretty much alone.  When our waiter dropped by Ellen asked what the difference was between the spiny lobster and the lobster.   He siad, ‘eh, spiny e local.  fresha”  That did it for Ellen, she ordered the spiny lobster in paste.  We added a bottle of aqua naturale and a bottle of Nero d’ Avola, the typical Sicilian table wine.  We watched the world go buy through the drawn Plexiglas walls  First the water and wine arrived,  followed by an eggplant carbora appetizer which was fantastic.  There are two things I love about eggplant, it is a chameleon if not charred taking on the flavor of the sauce as it cooks and if it becomes distinctively and wonderfully different if charred.  This dish was both.


Spiny Lobster

Ellen’s main course was impressive.  She had a whole spiny lobster, half  cut into her pasta dish.  The other half lobster was presented in the shell on her plate. I really enjoyed my pasta.  Ellen did offer me some of her dish; she was clearly so happy that I declined.

I later learned that Spaccatelle, the pasta I had ordered, is one of the few original Sicilian pasta forms.  Who knew.


Spaccatelle, My Lunch. Good but not Spiny Lobster!

We savored the wine and food, then with an “Scusi, il conto per favore” we were off in search of the Archeological Site that Laura had mentioned.   On our way out, we noticed the restaurant itself.


Should You Eat Here?  Absolutely!


Oil at Our Table


Olive Oil Urns atop An Olive Press


Kenlia”s Main Dining Room

The Rock

We both agreed we would not climb, “the rock”, which is of course exactly what we did.  The Archelogical Site is on the rim of the rock.  A castle stands still higher up in the center.  We compromised by not climbing to the Castle.   After the fall of the Roman Empire, the town of Cefalu dwindled as pirates of all stripes pillaged the Sicilian coast.  The city relocated to the top of The Rock, built fortifications, and with a massive cistern and food supply it withstood numerous sieges. Eventually the city relocated down on the shore where Cefalu stands today. The Rock is massive, impressive for its size and height.  It’s a nearly round  easily defended “mesa”.


The Rock is Truly a Cliff Outcropping of Massive Proportion


The Walt to Top of The Rock


Ellen at the Crenelated Wall atop The Rock


Dubrovnik?  No, Cefalu


Back down in civilization, we went to “our” coffee shop.  I was feeling my cold something fierce and ordered an Irish Coffee!  Right, go to Italy and order an Irish Coffee.  The bar tender didn’t even blink.  Ellen had a double gelato. All were delivered to our table.  In all seriousness, the Irish Coffee was absolutely the best ever: espresso (not coffee), Irish whiskey, and real foamed cream (not whipped) garnished with flakes of coffee bean made with care..


Irish Coffee in Italy?  Ma Si, Certo!

We walked the shoreline for a while as the sun set before heading back to Between Sky and Sea. We were sad to be leaving, but happy that to ;have experienced Cefalu.


Cefalu’s Beach, Off Season


A small Boat Harbor?


Fresh Fruit brought to You Daily!

Italy, Sicily day 5 Villa Igiea, Palermo, and Cefalu


Today was a day full of changes. From modern to ancient, from parking anxiety to “no problem”, from pampered to “the rock”.  The constant throughout?  Sicily’s seashore and wonderful cuisine.



The View from Our Hotel Room, Villa Igiea


We leave today for Cefalu with mixed feelings.  We would love to stay longer, but it is time to push on. We slept through the night again and awoke refreshed.  The “cold” was still in my nasal passages and not too bad.  We packed then went to breakfast, this time we took the elevator.


Breakfast is Served under the White Awnings

It was a moderately warm day; the patio was open and bustling.  I walked to a table being setup.  “No, this table is taken.  I’ll set one up for you.  Go to the buffet.” , which we did.  I chose a croissant, wanting to eat a light breakfast.  Ellen made a comment about eating healthy… Back to “our” table in the sun and it was taken.  A fellow had placed a book on the table.  “Mi dispace” and another table was setup, this time not in the sun.  Bummer with an incipient cold.  Still my croissant and  macchiato doppio were excellent.  Ellen had a more healthy breakfast of fruit and a cappuccino.



We took our bags down toward the front desk  to ask about Ellen’s flat iron and to check out.  She had left it with them to see if it could be resuscitated. The bellboy in the lobby came running to us to take our bags.  It seems any time you try to do something for yourself, the staff puts an end to that immediately.

Palermo & Parking


Parking Palermo Style, Our Volvo is 2nd Car on the Right

Ellen’s flat iron was kaput.  “Where could we buy a replacement?”  “On via Ruggiero Settimo”, which Via della Liberta becomes just past Teatro Massimo.   We knew exactly where that street was, we were there yesterday.  I planned on getting a SIM card this morning, this time bringing my passport along.  We asked about parking again, knowing there were two pay parking areas close to via Liberta.  “No, only one is outsize the ZTL, you cannot use the other.” That was a crucial bit of information.  Off we drove retracing yesterday’s steps at a rapid pace.  Passing the farmacia, Ellen said, “Let’s get more vitamin C.”   “Ok”, I said thinking, “crap, finding parking here is not going to be fun”.  A right turn and a left and there was a spot on the corner below a parking sign that was open. Wow, we found parking in less than 4 minutes! Ellen was concerned, “Maybe this is not a valid parking spot.  We could be towed.”  It looked good to me, off we went for our vitamin.  The car was there with no ticket on the windshield.  One down.

Continuing on we next had to find parking nearer Via della Liberta.  We needed to stop to check our map.  This time two left turns took us to a cull de sac. Lots of cars were double parked, I pulled in behind one.  While I was checking the map, Ellen said, “there’s some guy with a vest coming toward us. He’ll want us to move.”  He walked past, motioned that we were ok where we were, and he moved a car so another could get out.  We had found the parking area.  I paid the attendant two euros, he moved some cars, and we had ourselves a primo parking spot.  Ever concerned, Ellen wondered if we could park there until 14:00.  “No problem” I said.  Often that attitude gets me in trouble.  Two down.

TIM, SIM, Torquemada


Valentina, TIM is Very Lucky to Have Her

It turns out we had parked three blocks from the TIM shop that has “my” SIM card.  Ii took a number to wait my turn and Ellen went off to purchase the Italian handbag she saw the day before.  She completed her purchase long before I was served.  “il numero quarantotto,” “Parli Inglese?”  “No” But the fellow handed us off to  Valentina Cavara who did.  It took an interminable time to sort out which of TIM’s special offers was best for us, then have the SIM car programmed and inserted in my iPhone.  I had read that the 6 and 6S would work with international SIM cards and did not need to be unlocked.  WRONG! The SIM card simply would not work.  What to do?  “I can purchase a phone.  Do you have one that’s not expensive?”.  “Yes.  You would not want to buy an iPhone they are far to expensive.”   We went through the whole SIM card configuration again, but this time for a new smart phone that Valentina sold with her employee discount (!!).  Valentina also programmed a second SIM card which she said was a very special deal.  For three months we would have unlimited cellular data on this SIM, but no calling.  We left with a working local Italian phone number.  Even with the new cell phone, our cost was far less than we would pay through ATT for two months.  I am not happy with ATT’s pricing.  Anyway; Three and Four down.


One of the Piazzas We “Discovered” on our Search

We still have Ellen’s flat iron and comfortable walking shoes for Ellen to go.  We walked via Ruggiero Settimo and asked shopkeepers where we might find a flat iron.  It was fun and funny, did we want a salon to have Ellen’s hair done?  We were directed to Via Roma, Palermo’s third shopping area.  We saw outstanding historic fountains, statues, churches, monuments but no flat iron and no sneakers to Ellen’s liking.  On the bright side, it was early enough to have lunch at Torquemada.  They had been closed yesterday, but they were open now.   We ordered an appetizer of Five Diminutive Sicilian Sandwiches, think sliders done Sicilian style without the beef, and a mini pizza.  The sandwiches were great, the pizza was just OK.   Lunch: Five down.


It was not late enough that we could not possible check-in with Laura in Cefalu.  No Problem, I dialed her on my new phone and rescheduled.  It worked!  Heading back to the car, Ellen stopped into a shop that had sneakers that she liked, that fit, and that were comfortable.  In the space of five minutes (literally) she had her sneakers. Six down!

Palermo, Driving Again

We found the car parked just where we left it and (luckily) not parked in.  Driving out of Palermo, heck driving anywhere in Palermo, is a challenge. It can be fun, if you adopt “the right” and rather strange attitude toward driving.  It’s a Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde kind of thing.  Following the GPS out of the city was no problem.  Negotiating the traffic is the problem.  It took us the better part of an hour.  Again I called Laura and pushed our meet out another hour.


Even the autostrada was packed getting out of town. About an hour into our drive, I noticed the NAV displaying Messina 17km.  WHAT?  That cannot be right, Messina cannot possibly be 17km away.  I pulled off the autostrada to check our location, parked, and verified that we could not possibly have passed Cefalu.  Pulling out to turn around, I noticed a car pulling out behind me.  No problem, there’s plenty of room, then BEEEEEEEEP.  I stopped as a car stopped just to my left then pulled past.  The rear passenger, a man, made the typical Italian gesture of “you stupido”: holding his hand, fingers together and pointed up, while raisin and lowering the hand at the wrist.  So, around and back on the autostrada we went.  We found Cefalu, but the Nav system guided us uphill and away from the town!

Between Sky and Sea & Laura


Sweet Laura

“This can’t be right,” Ellen said flatly.  She was correct.  We switched to my new phone and Google maps to save us.  And it did to a point.  Google maps doesn’t know from pedestrian areas or ZTL’s and repeatedly guided  us up streets inaccessible to us.  We went round and round a few times until I just parked and we walked.

Laura was waiting for us outside the building when we arrived late; very late.  “Where’s your car?”  I explained how we went round and round then parked.  She was gracious about it.  We all agreed GPS can be crazy.


From the Top looking Down


The Living Room is Small and Cozy

I like booking properties with a view when I can.  In Italy this often means on the top floor and usually without an elevator.  Our Cefalu rental is no exception.  There are 64 steep steps from the doorway to the apartment.  We get our exercise that way.  (aside, I just heard the  frutta e verdura monger outside.  Every morning in Cefalu he calls out about the wonderful fruit or vegetables he has for sale.  He sells to local merchants. We can buy directly from him at his price. It’s quintessential Italy)



Looking East


Driving Cefalu, a Lighthearted Challenge

I asked Laura about local coffee shops and restaurants that she would recommend, she gave us the keys, and off she went.  She had shown us how to drive to the apartment.  We decided to schlep our bags and keep the car where it was, a ten minute walk away. We dropped our bags and headed out to find a bite and explore Cefalu.


Duomo Pizzeria & Ristorante

Just around the corner is the Duomo and its piazza.  We were famished and settled on Pizzeria Ristorante Duomo Serio not knowing what to expect.  Cefalu is very much like Taormina.  It has the same feel, though it lacks the open air Greek Amphitheater that is Taormina’s hallmark.  Not surprisingly, the Germans like Cefalu almost as much as they like Taormina.  German is the third most common language among the restaurants.   The maitre D asked if we spoke German, “Ma no”, then were were from.  We were seated and as often happens we chose the same entre for dinner, freshly made cheese ravioli with a tomato sauce, fresh basil, and hazel nuts.   Our waiter suggested I switch to fresh cheese ravioli with porcini mushrooms.  That was fine with me!  I don’t know how the Italians do it, but each pasta dish we have had was cooked perfectly with a perfect combination of flavors and seasoning.  The ravioli was outstanding.


A Typical Narrow Street and Yes, Locals Drive It

We strolled down the narrow street from the piazza to #9, our “home”, climbed the 64 steps, and figured out how to use the heater.  The apartment was cool and with my illness, some warmth was called for.  The bedroom heater worked great.  I couldn’t figure out how to work the kitchen/dining room heater.  (later I found a separate control for that unit = problem solved.)  We both slept through the night.


Cefalu is an ancient city located at the base of “the rock”.  The rock is a round stone outcropping that stands many meters high with impressive cliffs all the way around.  After the fall of the Roman empire, the people relocated to the top of the rock to avoid marauding pirates and Turks (and Turkish pirates too).  The fortifications atop The Rock are impressive and include massive walls nearly two meters thick, a crenelated wall atop the rock,, a castle, and huge cisterns.  With food and water the rock withstood many sieges.  Eventually the population moved back down to the sea and Storico Cefalu was built over time.


A View Past the Duomo to The Rock and Crenelated Wall

Cefalu is isolated on the north shore of Sicily about an hour’s drive from Palermo, perhaps two hours from Messina.  It is the only Tourist draw on this stretch of the north shore.  It is overlooked as a tourist destination, which saves it.  The locals live their lives in and around the tourists, many of whom are Italian too.  There are some trinket shops and a few sea side vendors selling their ware, but nobody is pushy.  We were only accosted once.  A woman carrying a child asked for money, I said, “ma no” (but no) and that was that.  Cefalu has maintained Its Italian roots.  The endless sea of poorly made souvenir crap so prevalent in Rome or Venice is missing here.  You get the sense that people are enjoying living in Cefalu and that tourism, while important, is not what Cefalu is about.

The view from Top of the Rock

So what is Cefalu “all about”?  It depends.  Come find out for yourself.



Planning for Spring in Italy

Today Rick Steves, ” A Pocket Guide to Florence” arrived in the mail.

Last year we visited Rome ahead of a Seabourn cruise of the Greek Islands. The cruise landed in Venice, where we met our friends, Markus and Alexandra, before moving on to Florence for four days. We absolutely loved the Greek Islands and Italy. We vowed to return to Italy for an extended stay. We also hope to do some island hopping in Greece, but on another trip. For us, a return trip to Italy came first.

Today, thinking back on our last Italian sojourn, Florence stands out as the place to stay for an extended time. Rome and Venice are outstanding. We had a wonderful time learning how to live in both cities; walking the streets seeing the piazzas, seeing world renound art in museums and discovering lesser known ones. We both enjoy taking chances on trattorias with an occasional forgettable experience. Rome and Venice are perhaps the most stunning cities in the world. In spite of all that, for us, Florence felt like home.

I remembered vividly two Florentine restaurants where we had lunch.Unfortunately I did not remember their names and couldn’t locate them on a detailed map. But… looking back over our Florence blog, I found one is “Il Barroccio”. I remember that the other is closer to the Giardino della Gherardesca and the Four Seasons Hotel. There it was in our blog: Trattoria Cibreo. Many other restaurants were memorable for service or for their location. These two restaurants were unassuming and served the most wonderful dishes.

This trip first lands us in Palermo, Sicily where we rent a car and drive the north shore of Sicily to Messina. From Messina we take a ferry and train to Salerno. From Salerno we self-tour Capri, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello before renting a car for a month at Salerno. From Salerno we drive the coast visiting Paestum, Pompeii, Torre del Greco, Erculo, Bacoli, Gaeta, and Sperlonga before turning inland toward Tivoli. We will visit some of the castle towns of Velletri, Genzano, Ariccia, Albano, Laziale, Castel Gandolfo, or Frascati then stop in Tivoli. The road from Tivoli to Orvieto runs near Calcata and Bagnoregio. From Orvieto we drive to Florence. All our lodging for this eighteen day trip as well as our six weeks in Florence is now booked and confirmed.

Booking accommodations was amusing if sometimes frustrating. I used bookings.com, homeaway.com, tripadvisor.com, and hotels.com. Often a listing was common to all with different prices. Sometimes one site would have a listing the others did not. Where prices differed, some included the taxes and fees in the price, some included just fees or just taxes, some included neither. The least expensive listing often was acutally the most expensive after fees and taxes. We booked six stays through bookings.com, four through homeaway.com, three through TripAdvisor, and two through hotels.com. We booked our stay at the Villa Igiea, Palermo directly.

We would book our connections now, but it is not possible to do so online. Train tickets can only be booked 120 days in advance and the 2017 ferry schedules are not yet avaiable online. Then too, it may be better not to book ahead to avoid missing a connection.

What a marvelous adventure awaits.

Here are some stock photos that present the scope of our travels from Palermo to Florence.


Lavenzo Island


Lorenzo petroglyphs

Petryglyphs on Levanzo Island

villa igiea 2 villa igiea 1

Villa Igiea, Palermo





Capri BlueGrotto capri

Capri and the Blue Grotto





AmalfiCoast amalfi

Amalfi Coast and Amalfi







sperlonga 2 Sperlonga




arricia ariccia(1)


 albano laziale

Albano Laziale

Calcata italy




tivoli 1 Tivoli 2


orvieto orvieto 2



IMG 4980 cropped