Spontaneity is the best kind of adventure.
Because I am in Sicily doing a little research for my April group trip here, I had plans to see a few different places that we could reach easily from Palermo—Agrigento, Trapani, and Cefalù. Agrigento is home to Valley of the Temples, a huge archaeological site that showcases Greek art and architecture. Trapani is still a major fishing port and is home to the salt pans—where they mine sea salt. Cefalù has one of the most beautiful beach areas in Sicily.
Last Saturday, the area encompassing most of these sites experienced torrential rain (There were a number of deaths due to the storm water.), and the information agency in Palermo told me that Agrigento was closed at least Monday and that the trains there were not running due to damage to the tracks. I checked last night and saw that the train schedule showed trains to Agrigento, so Mike and I decided to go today.
We got up early and hoofed down to the station to catch the 8:43 train. We bought two tickets through the ticket machine and headed to the platforms. I checked to see where we should go, and sure enough, there was a big CANCELLED next to our train number.
“I knew it,” I sighed.
“Why did the machine even sell us the ticket?” Mike asked. I just shook my head, and we walked to the ticket window to talk to the attendant there. He was very nice, and I’ll save you the conversation. He refunded our money, told me that trains to both Trapani and Agrigento were canceled, and told me to check with the bus company to see if they were going there yet. To make a long story short, we ended up changing plans mid-breath and ended up with tickets to Cefalù.
About 45 miles east of Palermo, Cefalù is home to 14,000 residents and thousands of tourists annually. Like Palermo, Cefalù faces the sea on one side and hugs the mountains on the other. Its harbor is small but excellent, and its beach stretches along the lower side of the town.
One of the main sites of Cefalù is the cathedral (build in 1131), Norman in architecture. Its two towers dominate the “skyline” of the area, and the three arches correspond to the three aisles within the church. To the cathedral’s left as you face it is the former bishop’s palace and the seminary/cloister. Note the huge crag of rock on the right.
The interior of the cathedral was restored in the 16 century, but the mosaics, typical of the Byzantine style of the 12 century, were kept intact. We were pleasantly surprised that the cathedral was not overly gaudy as so many of them are. The decorations consisted of the mosaics, some statues, and a few side altars.
For the most part, Mike and I just wandered around town. We had cappuccino, walked around town, dodged Vespas, climbed down to the rocky shore, headed back up to the main drag, dodged bikes, strolled along the seafront, dodged feral cats, retraced our steps along the town’s main street, dodged tiny cars, fell asleep (Mike), had more cappuccino, dodged beggars, and headed to the train station.
We didn’t try to climb the rocky promontory to see the rocca (fortress), but that was okay. We ended up spending about four hours in town which, if I were to be truthful, was a little less than I wanted. I could have walked down a few more of the streets and ducked into a few more stores, but the other half was ready to move on, so I didn’t push it. As it was, we had a great adventure, anyway, which is what usually happens when my plans go awry.
We plan to head to the bus station tomorrow morning to see if the bus is going to Agrigento. I’ll let you know what we find out…or what other adventure we have.