La Rocca, And More

Today, I got high. As you probably guessed from the title of this entry, or if you know me even the slightest, I didn’t do it with drugs. I was being literal. I trekked up La Rocca. (If you didn’t read yesterday’s entry, and you’re not familiar with La Rocca, don’t worry. The next paragraph makes it clear.)

La Rocca dominating the background
La Rocca dominating the background

I know that yesterday I said that today I might, just might, mind you, hike as high as the Temple of Diana, about halfway up Cefalù’s rock monster, La Rocca. But I said there was no way that I, who unavoidably is a man my age, would climb all the way to the top.

It seems I was wrong about the part about not climbing to the summit.

After I came down from La Rocca, fortunately in a controlled descent, I did more walking around, visited a museum and another sight, and had a well-deserved lunch in amongst it all.

But first, La Rocca.

La Rocca

A view on the way up to the Temple of Diana
A view on the way up to the Temple of Diana

The way up to the Temple of Diana, about, as I said, halfway up La Rocca, involves a lot of stairs. However, it is otherwise easy.

The flat-topped stone steps are well constructed and maintained, and suitably wide. Sturdy railings protect walkers from the cliff. I, for one, greatly appreciated that.

Landings provide amazing views of Cefalù, and the coast for quite a distance beyond. A few of those landings also had a bench on them. (Obviously, one bench per landing that had one. Not one bench shared among the landings. The latter would be logistically difficult.)

You don’t need to tell me twice
You don’t need to tell me twice

The views of Cefalù are primarily of the newer part of town. Most of the old town is at the base of La Rocca and not visible from above.

I imagine if you leaned as far out over the edge of the cliff as you could you would likely see more of of the old town. But at the few points where this might have been possible for a foolish daredevil to do, signs strongly recommend against it. They didn’t have to tell me twice. I might be foolish but, with good reason, I’ve never been accused of being a daredevil.

At frequent intervals, signs provide information about structures, such as ancient walls, a cistern, and small buildings. The signs also provide the average walking times and calories burned from the previous and to the and next sight. The signs are frequent enough that the times are often a minute and the average calories burned are typically less than 15.

Exterior of the megalithic Temple of Diana
Exterior of the megalithic Temple of Diana

Thanks to the solidity and sufficient width of the stairs, coupled with the sturdiness of the railings, my acrophobia didn’t make many of appearances on the way to the Temple of Diana. The only exceptions were at a couple of those points of note that had somewhat less protection from a fall with extreme prejudice than I prefer. But they weren’t too bad. My acrophobia barely whispered at me.

Temple of Diana

Interior of the megalithic Temple of Diana
Interior of the megalithic Temple of Diana

The Temple of Diana, or what’s left of it, sits on a small plateau. That plateau is large enough to hold the small temple, a number of trees, and a picnic area with a few picnic tables.

According to the sign there, the structure is a megalithic building that became popularly named the Temple of Diana. The sign doesn’t say when or why it acquired that moniker, but it does say that it was almost certainly used for religious purposes at some point in its history.

The temple itself is a small, simple, stone building, but with the roof and the upper portion of the walls no longer there.

According to the sign, the stones that form the building were quarried out of the Rock. (I think they mean La Rocca.)

There’s not much there. And, unless whole rooms are totally missing rather than just the roof and some of the walls, I don’t think there ever was much there. So, if it really was a Temple of Diana for some people at some time, those Diana worshippers couldn’t have thought much of her. Or she of them, for that matter, considering how scant they made her temple.

The date of the construction of the Temple of Diana is in question, but the sign says that evidence suggests a date somewhere around the 9th to 8th centuries BCE.

The Castle at the Summit of La Rocca

An ancient building at the summit of La Rocca
An ancient building at the summit of La Rocca

After looking around the Temple of Diana, I figured, what the heck? That climb wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Besides, they charge €5 just to get into the park that encompasses La Rocca. There was no damned way I was going to leave without getting full value from it.

After the first few steps up from the temple, the stairs disappear. The route turns into an earth, stone, and/or rock path. And the railings disappear too. The width of the path varies, sometimes to well below the lower limit of my comfort zone.

There also aren’t any of those information signs that are between the base of La Rocca and the Temple of Diana, except for a single one at the summit.

One of the views from the summit of La Rocca
One of the views from the summit of La Rocca

For much of the way from the Temple of Diana to the summit my acrophobia continuously screamed at the top of its anthropomorphized lungs, “I’M BACK! NOT SO BRAVE NOW, ARE YOU, WIMP?!

I tried to ignore it and pushed on all the way to the top.

La Rocca is about 268 metres (846 feet) high. I’m exhausted just typing that. But I got there. And, as evidenced by this entry, I made it back alive.

One of the remaining defensive walls of the castle at the summit of La Rocca
One of the remaining defensive walls of the castle at the summit of La Rocca

(Do you know how difficult it is to pat yourself on the back while typing? Really, really difficult, that’s how difficult. I think I pulled a muscle.)

(“The Little Engine That Could” comes to mind here. I think I’m reverting to my childhood in my old age. That can’t be a good sign.)

At the top of La Rocca is a a castle, or so the sign there says. The castle is one small stone building and some defensive walls. The rest of the castle is long gone. But there are some great views from up there, including to the side of La Rocca away from Cefalù. In that direction, there is a marina, a spectacular coastline, and some green hills.

Another view from the summit of La Rocca
Another view from the summit of La Rocca

According to my tour book, from the back side of La Rocca I saw a lot of mountains, including even Mount Etna. I say “according to my tour book” because, while I did see mountains, Mount Etna is quite far from here. If Mount Etna is one of the mountains I saw, I didn’t identify it.

Heading Down La Rocca

From the summit, there is a different route down La Rocca. It joins up with the path going up somewhere below the Temple of Diana. This alternate path down is similar to the path going up as it is beyond the Temple of Diana in terms of its lack of stairs and railings, and in terms of it not being a path where one is reasonably assured of being surefooted. But it’s more so because the down path joins the stairs while they are still stairs, below the Temple of Diana. So, yeah, my acrophobia got a good workout today.

It took me almost two and a half hours to go from the start of the trailhead, up to the summit and then back down again to the base. That included a many stops to take in the view, panic, or panic while taking in the view. I also had a brief sit-me-down on one of the benches.

Surprisingly, none of my muscles ached after the adventure. I guess I really am reasonably fit for a man my age. Either that or I was indeed in excruciating muscular pain for considerable time after the climb, but age-related memory problems caused me to forget about it by the time I typed these words. I think it’s the former, but I’m willing to believe either.

Cefalù’s Rocky Shore

The rocky shore behind Cefalù's old town
The rocky shore behind Cefalù’s old town

After descending La Rocca, I walked to the seaward back end of Cefalù’s old town. This was not a random choice. I wanted to see if there is a non-beach meeting of land and sea back there.

There is. It’s beautiful. Big, rough rocks jut up and out to the sea to create a dramatic effect.

Steps lead down to the rocks from the road somewhat above them. Once down at rock level, one can scramble over them. But one doesn’t have to in order to experience the full beauty of the rocky shore.

Over top of rocks, somewhat back from the sea, they (the ubiquitous they) built a narrow flat-top stone and mortar path to walk along. A few similar, short, intersecting paths lead out over the rocks and closer to the sea. Where appropriate, they also built steps on the path. So, those of us whose better scampering days are behind us can still get pretty much the full experience of the beauty of the rocks.

Mandralisca Museum

Portrait of an unknown man, Antonello da Messina (1430-1479)
Portrait of an unknown man, Antonello da Messina (1430-1479)

The Mandralisca Museum (Museo Mandralisca) in Cefalù is quite small and quirky. The ground level contains only its entrance. The museum houses its exhibits on two relatively small floors above.

There are two sets of rooms on the first floor. One set displays mostly paintings. The labels beside the paintings are in both Italian and English. But some longer descriptive text on large signs is exclusively Italian. The prized possession of the museum is a painting titled (in the English portion of the label), “Portrait of an unknown man,” by the Renaissance painter Antonello da Messina (1430-1479).

The other set of rooms on the first floor contains archaeological artifacts, including architectural elements and pottery. A video describing pottery making with Italian audio and English subtitles plays continuously on a screen in the archaeological section.

Considering how relatively small it is for a museum, it’s amazing how eclectic the second floor can be. This level contains small collections of modern sculptures, old coins, taxidermy, china, glassware, decorated cabinets, sea shells, as well as some more paintings. There is also a small bookstore up there.

On both floors of the museum, pretty much only the labels beside paintings have both Italian and English. Most of the rest are in Italian only.

Medieval Washhouse

Cefalù's medieval laundry room
Cefalù’s medieval laundry room

Right in Cefalù’s old down, down some steps from a street, almost to sea level sits a medieval washhouse. There are a few basins and a channel that water flows continuously along and through the basins. This is where they did the laundry in medieval Cefalù, or whatever it was called then.

Entry to this laundry room is free. So, if you’re in Cefalù and need to do some washing, you know where to go. Just don’t tell the town council I told you to do that. I don’t think they want people washing their clothes there any more.

More Wandering

In addition to all of the above, and a pleasant lunch in the middle of it all, I did more wandering, and a little more sitting and staring out at the sea today.

Cefalu's smaller, little-used sand beach
Cefalu’s smaller, little-used sand beach

One of the places I wandered through was back in Cefalù’s old town. I’m really getting to love its gritty, old streets. I have no idea why I, a somewhat dishevelled 70-year-old man, would have an affinity for gritty, old things. But, go figure.

I also walked along the beachfront promenade again. But this time, I walked farther along it in the direction away from central Cefalù than I had yesterday. It was worth it.

The promenade continues past the end of the long beach. There, it passes a small section of rocky shore. The rocks aren’t as dramatic as the ones I saw behind the old town. They are more rounded boulders. But they make for an attractive shoreline nevertheless.

A rockier shoreline
A rockier shoreline

Beyond that is another small, little-used sand beach. It also has a few rocks, including some short rock outcroppings jutting out to the sea. Very beautiful.

I continued my walk out past where the promenade peters out to a narrow sidewalk and beyond that where the sidewalk widens out again, although not back into promenade class.

Cefalù sits on one end of a bay that doesn’t cut very far into the mainland. The bottom part of the U-shaped bay is much longer than the sides, and is fairly straight.

Still more rocky shoreline
Still more rocky shoreline

The wider sidewalk I ended up on curves around the other end of the bay. At that end, the shoreline transitions back into being rocky. And, like the rest of it, is very picturesque. From that end of the bay, the view takes in the whole shoreline up to Cefalù in the distance, with La Rocca making an inevitable appearance in the vista. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

With the exception of La Rocca and the museum, none of this was in the tour book I’m using. The moral of the story is that sometimes you have to ignore the tour book and go where you wanna go, do what wanna do. Wait. The Mamas and the Papas didn’t put out a tour book, did they?

At this point in my rapidly winding down trip to Sicily, I’ve come to a conclusion. Sicily is filled with a lot of stunning locales. Absolutely stunning. Why the heck did it take me this long to get here?

Cefalù and La Rocca as seen from the other end of the bay
Cefalù and La Rocca as seen from the other end of the bay

Sunset Over the Sea

Sunset over the sea
Sunset over the sea

As I did last night, tonight I strolled to the seashore to see the sun set over the sea. (And she sells seashells by the seashore, but never mind that.)

Tonight, some clouds cooperated by picking up some of the colours of the setting sun. I posted here just two of the pictures I took.

Bravo, sun god, cloud god, blue sky god, sea, and Cefalù. You make a fantastic ensemble cast and put on a great show tonight. Again, bravo!

A little later during sunset over the sea
A little later during sunset over the sea
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