A riot of russet rooftops and honey-coloured facades dropping off to rocks and the Mediterranean, Cefalù is the romantic, old-fashioned northern heart of Sicily. Skip through the city’s palm-shaded streets with a gelato in hand, stumbling across mosaic-clad cathedrals and rustic piazza restaurants, along with fabulous art museums and a lively urban beach if you have a few days to play with. After dark, start (or end) your evening in one of these charming Sicilian bars to master the art of the aperitivo and mingle with stylish locals.
The city beach is sandy, sun-drenched and backed by dramatic mountains – but it can get crowded down by the water’s edge. You can sidestep the madness at this elegant beach club set on a wooden deck, with a Balinese-style thatched pavilion and glowing lanterns. There’s a full-size pool to dunk yourself in, alongside a crowd of twentysomething, streetwear-clad Italians sipping Aperol spritzes and nibbling bruschetta in style. After dark, the party cranks up, with beats thumping on until 3am on weekends.
Duck off a charming cobbled alley to find this sultry pre-dinner hang-out, with tables spilling out onto the pavement. You’re furnished with an only-in-Italy spread of aperitivo-hour snacks (smoked salmon bruschetta, crisps, charcuterie, sliders) as you work your way through a menu of mojitos, Disaronno sours and lageritas (beer, tequila, Cointreau and lime). Football screenings and live-music sessions keep the atmosphere light and relaxed. Try the smoked gin and tonic, which arrives in a mini bell jar.
Sit outside with a view of the sea at this swanky cocktail bar on the coastal road out of the old town. Presentation is everything here. For example, a tequila creation might come bearing a colourful Day of the Dead skull in its foam, while racks of test tubes contain fruity shots. Also, edible flowers top totem-like tiki cups. Strike up a conversation with owner Marco; if you tell him which spirits and flavours you like, he’ll prescribe you the perfect potion.
The bearded, tattooed gents serving you at Kalapinta wear loud Hawaiian shirts and denim – the vibe is Hairy Bikers on holiday. It’s a beer shop and taproom that doesn’t mind you stopping for a pint or three, with fiery jalapeño-laced hotdogs to fill your belly once you’ve indulged in the hoppy stuff. Grab a seat on wooden benches just outside or at the handful of tables inside, featuring Victorian goth and steampunk design details, including brass pipes and skeleton lamps.
It’s good to have an al fresco pit stop near the main sights, and this chilled spot has streetside tables almost opposite the majestic cathedral. The interior is tiny, so head outside where you’ll find big barrels to rest your drinks on and views of a charming leafy alley, plus a gossiping crowd of after-work drinkers. Blend in by ordering a zesty Sicilian pale ale, Bruno Ribadi, for notes of grapefruit, caramel and pink pepper.
In a hub of great restaurants and bars in the city centre, this chic, grown-up wine bar has slender, high wooden stools and minimalist aperitivo snacks served in smooth glass ramekins. Check out the vintages served by the glass on the blackboard in the entrance, most for a few euros a serve; the knowledgeable staff can advise you on the palest, driest rosé or the spiciest, most full-bodied red in the house.
Naked festoon lights trim the thatched white pavilion at this charming waterfront hang-out, or kiosk, on the grassy slopes above the city beach. Its top-quality tipples are created with love – a sprig of mint here, a decorative frangipani flower there – but the overall vibe is boho-relaxed, with patrons slinking off the sands with salt-scrunched hair for sunset drinks. Huge salads, pizzas and oil-drizzled burrata satisfy any munchies along the way.
Haven’t found your place to stay in Sicily? Book one of the best hotels on the island or a base that gives you the local experience through Culture Trip now. Spend time discovering the top things to see and do, or for the more adventurous, try one of the hiking trails on the island. At the end of the day, wind down and treat yourself to a delicious dinner at one of the best restaurants in Sicily before heading out to the bars.
Article by Lucy Thackray, with contribution from the Culture Trip Travel Team.
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