The Rocca is not only the beautiful and characteristic background of Cefalù, but it is also part of town, which developed at the foot of the Rocca and took building materials out of the rock. The mother rock gave birth to the town and dominates Cefalù, bearing witness of its history, stratified in the rock. The connection between Cefalù and the Rocca supports the hypothesis that Kephaloidion, the ancient name of Cefalù comes from "Kefalis", head, connected with the shape of the Rocca.
The promontory rises 268 metres above sea level, and it is still the hawk kingdom, covered with the Mediterranean bush, partly destroyed by several fires.
The geological features of the Rock have been recently discovered by modern techniques: some chemical tracers have been put on the top of the Carbonara mountain and they have been found near the Cefalù harbour, in the Presidiana waters... the underground connection between the Rocca and Pizzo Carbonara has been attested.
The Temple of Diana
Megalithic building dating from the 9th century B.C., it is likely that it had an original sacred function connected with local water worship.
Its original sacred function is suggested by the remains of a Byzantine church built on the top of the temple. The building had possibly also a defensive role, as its strategic position allowed to dominate the surronding area. The temple incorporates a cistern dating from the 9th century B.C. which would confirm the original local water worship.
It is narrated that, caught in a terrific sea storm, Roger II made a vow to build a temple to the Saviour once he was safe....
The Cefalù Cathedral was started on 7 June 1131 and it was destined to become one of the most beautiful and emblematic monuments in Cefalù and in Sicily.
The Cathedral is a beautiful synthesis of Arab, Byzantine, Latin and Nordic architecture and art. The Cathedral stands at the top of a flight of steps (the present flight of steps dates from 1851) and dominates the Square, embellished with towering palms. The façade, completed by Giovanni Panettera, dates from 1240 and is flanked by two massive four-storeys towers ending with two pyramidal coverings and giving a characteristic outline to the Cathedral, which together with the background of the Rock and the blue sea, is the most famous picture of Cefalù.
The façade is decorated by a twin order of arches and is preceded by a triple-arched portico: a round arch in the middle and two pointed side arches.
A colossal portal, enriched with precious decorations gives access to the Cathedral's interior. The edifice has a Latin cross layout, with eight granite columns per side, dividing the Cathedral into three naves and supporting big pointed arches. The capitals of the columns belong to different periods, some are of Byzantine style, others of Latin style and are finely decorated. The ceiling has wooden trusses. Two big columns support the arch connecting the main nave to the majestic transept. In the elevated presbitery, two royal and episcopal thrones decorated with mosaics stand facing each other. The floor is in grey local stone which lends severity and grandeur to the interior, dampered by the mosaic tesserae of the apse bowl, the presbiterial walls and the rib vaults.
The Medieval wash-house
At the entrance of the washing place on the right side, there is written: "Here there flows Cefalino, more salubrious than any other river, purer than silver, colder than snow".
According to legend, Cefalino was born from the tears of a nymph who repented of having killed her unfaithful husband.
Until few decades ago, women used to come and rinse clothes in the Cefalino pure running water, and their voices and cheerful songs resounded in this place.
You go down a picturesque flight of steps to a room half-covered by a low ceiling. Out of numerous mouths in three walls, there comes an imposing quantity of water whose, sound make this place unique in the world. Then the water goes under the washing place basins and via a sort of little cave, it ends up in the sea
The Mandralisca Museum is called after the Baron Enrico Piraino di Mandralisca, who was born in Cefalù in 1809 and who started the notable collection of objects we can find there. The Baron was a lover of culture, but also a philantropist; he founded schools at his own expenses for the children of Cefalù peasants and fishermen. He was arrested in 1859 for his love of fairness and his patriotic feeling. He was appointed Lieutenant-counsellor and, on that account, he was called to represent the Cefalù constituency when the first Italian Parliament met in Turin.
He left his whole patrimony to the town, recommending the building of a foundation, where one can admire the items he was collecting for many years. Many archeological items come from Lipari, where he personally did diggings.
Among the archaeological finds there stands out the "Crater of the tuna-fish Vendor", a Siceliot piece from the 4th century B.C. with red figures.
The Museum includes a library with about 6000 volums, two precious incunambules and some rare texts, like "De Origine Ecclesiae Cephaleditanae" by brother Benedetto Passafiume, dating from 1645.
In the Art Gallery one can admire some still lifes, Byzantine works, some views of Venice and the well-known "Portrait of an Unknown Man" a masterpiece by Antonello da Messina.
The Unknowm Man is a middle-class man of the Renaissance. He wears a hat of that age, and his brown suit's neckline lays emphasis on the shirt, whose folds are realistically paint. But what strikes us is his gaze. How can we interpret his expression? Who is the Unknown Man and what is he thinking of ? .... One thing is sure: Antonello knew how to paint the heart of his characters.
Behind each face one can perceive a thought, revealed by an expression of intelligenge, love or wit.
The Museum also includes a numismatic collection, with coins from the mature archaism to the so-called period of master minters.
To end, as to pay hommage to the sea, there is a very singular malacology collection with more than 20,000 exemplars of shells from all over the world.
The Osterio Magno
Osterio means noble building... According to tradition the Osterio was the residence of King Roger. From 1300 it belonged to the Ventimiglia Family and became their winter residence.
The Osterio has a splendid fourteenth century three-mullioned window looking out on Corso Ruggero. The recent restoration work in the tower and the "bichrome" building has led to discovery of remains of an Hellenistic town layout. Till last century, the little Osterio -now destroyed- standed facing the Osterio Magno.
Today the Osterio has been reopened as an exhibition centre, where the Cefalù Touristic Board organizes book, modern art and other cultural exhibitions.