Cefalu

Our final stop was at a hotel a few kms from Cefalu, on the road to Castelbuono. From here we went into Cefalu for a half day - it was wet

Relais Abbazia Santa Anastasia.

It's set amidst 70 acres of vineyards with sweeping views down to the sea and the offshore Aeolian islands. One certainly could not stay here without a car, as Cefalù, with its Unesco World Heritage cathedral is 15 km away, while the town of Castelbuono, famous for its castle and centre for local food tasting, is 10 km away.

The Relais Santa Anastasia is the result of the renovation of a medieval Benedictine abbey of the XII century. It has been well restored, and they have their own vineyard next door (though we were not able to visit it or their wine shop when staying at the hotel - nobody in the hotel had any information)

Because it was a monastery the bedrooms are on the small size, but are perfectly adequate. The rooms are dark as the windows are small, and the lighting is not good

The public rooms have been well done, but it was difficult to get the lights switched on at night as the reception staff tended to disappear when ever possible to their back office and avoid the customers

There was a restaurant and a separate breakfast room. Breakfast was satisfactory, rather than good, and the breakfast staff were particularly keen to avoid serving guests. Empty plates of food were not replaced, moldy fruit remained in bowls, and getting a fresh cup of coffee was a nightmare, and only one per person was free!!

The original friars’ refectory and stables were adapted into the restaurant. Our dinner was very good. Mind you it needed to be, as the location of the hotel - very remote , up a narrow, badly made, road, meant that on a winter's night you would not fancy driving the distance to Castelbuono and returning to the hotel.

We took the long, steep path to the top of the hill above the hotel, where there was a fine view down over the hotel, vines and valley. The path was deteriorating towards the top

So I enjoyed my stay, but some of the staff need replaced/retrained, breakfast needs improved, and they need to check their entire lighting system

 

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Castelbuono

Castelbuono is known for its castle from which it's name derives, and around which the city developed in the 14th century. However we never quite made the inside of the castle - wrong time of day for their opening hours.

We wandered the streets, and once we had found a back entrance to the town with easy parking and walking, we visited a second time and had lunch

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Fiasconaro

This cafe is bang on the square in Castelbuono and sells delicious cakes, coffees, ice creams, etc The tables are on the square, so you can watch the world go by. You can also keep and eye on the working men's club opposite which was full of characters (Italian society being what it is, you will not see women there) For cakes, best bet is to go into the cafe and point. You cannot go far wrong Only criticism I had was that my "fresh" orange juice had clearly been squeezed earlier in the day, and had lost its freshness in their fridge.

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Cefalu

We were able to park on the local football pitch - for a fee, as clearly parking cars is more profitable than playing soccer. It was then only a short walk into the old town.

Cefalu was colonised successively by Greeks, Cartaginians, and Romans. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the town remained part of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the settlement was eventually moved from the plain to the current spur for defence. In AD 858, after a long siege, it was conquered by the Arabs. For the following two centuries it was part of the Emirate of Sicily.

In 1063, the Normans captured it. In 1131, Roger II, king of Sicily, transferred it from its almost inaccessible position to one at the foot of the rock, where there was a small but excellent harbour and began construction of the present Byzantine-style cathedral.

Between the 13th century and 1451, it was under different feudal families, and then it became a possession of the bishops of Cefalù. Cefalù became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

Set in the medieval district, is the Duomo, a handsome and imposing two-towered Norman cathedral. The building's interior is decorated with lovely mosaics created by twelfth-century Byzantine artists. It is part of the bundled UNESCO World Heritage site "Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale" . The Italians are good at "bundles" of this sort in order to increase their tourist attractions

The town is quaint, and relatively traffic free - streets being too narrow and cars effectively banned. But it was too wet to tarry too long here. Although I think we saw everything there was to see.

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Nangalarruni Restaurant, Castelbuono

The gizmo here is that the owner picks wild mushrooms daily. Well when we visited, wild mushrooms were not that predominant on the tasting menu that we ordered, But that did not really matter, what we got, that was even better than the food, was the atmosphere of this little restaurant

Inside it is dark and, well, Sicilian. You will remember eating here, long after you have forgotten what you ate. We sat there drinking both the excellent wine and the Sicilian ambience. The staff were very welcoming, in spite of my lack of any Italian.

It has a Bib Gourmand in Michelin, which helps attract foreigners as well as locals down this tiny side street close to the main square. It really is a must to visit, irrespective of whether the wild mushrooms are aplenty or not

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Then it was back to Palermo Airport via the Autostrada and its series of tunnels to catch our Air Malta flight to Malta

Sicily's A20 - more tunnel than motorway! On 21st December, 2004 the 41.2 km Furiano-Castelbuono section was opened to complete the A20 Messina-Palermo motorway. On the final 30.6 km between Castelbuono and Caronia there are 16 tunnels with total length of about 18 km which, added to those previously completed, give the A20 the world record for the motorway with most metres in tunnel: 117.12 km.

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Our Sicily Holiday