This quick week away to Sicily is an opportunity to regain the flavour of the Italy that I love – the culture, the history, the wine (oh the wine), the food, the sun, the history, the families, the gelatos, the coffee. Am doing it slightly differently this time – once I arrive all journeys will be by public transport … and feet. I can leave all that driving stress behind and just enjoy the place. Initial journeys from the airport to Palermo and beyond have been booked from home and safely stored on my phone. You can book journeys all over the world at any time, on Trainline.
Once through and collected bags, it is a 30 second walk to platform 2, where the first of several punctual train awaits. In Palemro Centrale it is a hop to platform 4 and the service to Cefalu.
Cefalu is an ancient fishing port sandwiched between the Mediterranean and a range of large craggy rocks on the north coast of Sicily to the east of Palermo. Fishing may be its roots but today it is a charming tourist resort, fashionable with affluent Italians, day visitors from Palermo and holiday makers seeking the real Sicily. The summer months see large numbers on the beach and in the streets. But now the sunbeds are empty, the restaurants living on hope rather than bookings and cafes & gelaterias serve you immediately you turn up. It means that the true peace and feel of the medieval town can be appreciated. The atmosphere, the history, the flavours ooze from every stone block, from every piece of cracking plaster, from every pigment.
Breakfast is taken in the Pazza Duomo. Slightly later than planned, a peal of bells signals the start of midday mass and for a moment disrupts the tables of coffee and gateaux. A few take the ancient steps, past the gate-guarding bishops, up and into the cathedral. The rest turn back to their table and watch another group of visitors pass through the narrow, cobbled streets.
The old town consists of a grid of tall apartment blocks, centuries old, linked by steep, stoned streets.
Balconies stretch across to touch their opposite number. Today is obviously a good washing day as lines of sheets and shirts wave to each other, dancing together in a drying partnership.
Cefalu is a joy to visit.