One obvious thing to do in Cefalù is to climb La Rocca di Cefalù. In this article, we share experience about our visit, mixed with useful information you might need to know.
The 2 main things that we didn’t know before the visit were the following.
- There are opening hours. It seems that you can’t go there wherever you want.
- There is an entrance fee that must be paid precisely and in cash – with no change back. Card payment should be available but not on our visit.
Read more about these things down below. Let’s start at the top!
Arriving and parking
It’s a pretty small town. Wherever you start- it’s a quick walk to the beginning of the trail. The entrance is located near “Salita Saraceni 21” and it’s named as “Parco della Rocca di Cefalù”. From the train station, it would be no more than 10 minutes and less than half a mile (or 700 meters) of a walk.
We arrived by car so we needed a parking lot. Since we don’t like street-side parking in Italy (for obvious reasons) we chose to use a carpark near the train station. It’s located in Via Aldo Moro, 20a and named “Parcheggio Stazione”. There is also ZTL area in the city center, so using the parking lot is a lot less stressful even though we use ZTL radar app for staying safe. Parking was 1 euro per hour.
Entrance fee and opening hours
Before arriving at the start of the trail we were not aware that there were opening times and also an entrance fee. We were greeted by a lady who helped us to buy the tickets from the machine. The machine looked like a parking meter and it printed the same looking tickets. The price was 4 euros per adult. We were lucky to have some cash on us since it was cash only. At least on that day. Based on the information we found on the internet, there should also be card payments available with the ticket machine.
The next surprise was that we did have to pay an exact amount of cash- no change is given back by the machine if paid more.
She entered us into her notebook and we had to come back down before closing time. Later when we came back down, she crossed our number off her list. Not sure why this “bookkeeping” was done. Might there be a problem with people who get lost?
We didn’t look at opening times, but from the internet, we did find the following info: during the summer it should be opened from 9:00 to 19:00 and in the wintertime from 9:00 to 16:00. But unfortunately, we didn’t find any official information on it. Keep in mind that you should arrive there at least 2-3 hours before closing time because you have to get down before they close it.
Not sure what happens if someone arrives after “officially open” hours no one is there. Can you just climb for free since we don’t think there would be any reinforcements to keep people off the track and climb the mountain? If someone knows – please let us know how it is after official opening hours (and what are the times). It would be nice to share it with our readers.
The highest point of the mountain itself should be around 268 meters from sea level according to wiki. But the actual climb would be around 200 meters from the start of the trail. The streets of the city leading to start are already ascending.
Hike to the castle (at the very top) took us around 45 minutes. At the start, there are mostly stairs, but it soon changes to a winding and gravely footpath which zig-zag’s to the top of the mountain. It’s a moderate climb. No special trekking gear is needed, but comfortable shoes would be a plus.
We had an entertaining talk with people who were trekking up there while we descended from the castle. The obvious contrast made us strike a quick conversation. They looked like they mean business. Compared to us they had a serious trekker’s look and gear. We, on the other hand, looked like casual tourists with T-shirts, shorts, sandals, and flip-flops. As a result, our friend coined the term “#mountainhikingflipflops”. Totally doable in flip-flops. Maybe in rain, it would suck and be more slippery. But if you watch your step there is no problem with dry weather.
Fun fact. Other famous destination within Italy takes actions against people wearing unsuitable shoes for their trails.
Paths, ruins of the castle and archeological site
After climbing the stairs you can choose where you want to go. To the castle at the top or to the archeological site.
It’s possible to go to the castle from the archeological site and vice versa. So there s no pressure if you want to go both. Signs are set up where trails split and they are easily recognizable.
At the archeological site, there are some picnic tables if you want to rest or make a quick snack pause there. The big cross on the edge of the cliff which is visible from the old town (near the Cathedral of Cefalù from the Piazza del Duomo), is also located there a bit further.
It was a pleasant hike and worth the effort. There was also a practical idea behind it for us. We joked that it’s our “training day” for Mount Etna, which we also did later as part of our Sicily road trip. It was great to get some idea of how hard such a climb would be and make plans accordingly.1