EVENTS of CEFALU'
CELEBRATIONS AND FESTIVALS
January, 6: EPIPHANY
Generally a parade that follows Befana (an ugly old witch-like woman who gives presents to good children and coal to the bad ones) around the streets of the Sicilian town, shortly after Sicily's christmas period.
Typical of this festival are masked parades, allegorical carts, and dances.
A particular culinary tradition is also associated with this event, the preparation of the so-called lasagni cacati, which is a plate of pasta with a sauce of sausage and fresh ricotta. Traditional Sicilian sweets are also eaten.
March, 19: S. GIUSEPPE
On the day of the festival itself there is a procession with an effigy of the Saint on a pallet (in dialect “ ‘a vara”), whilst on its eve fires known as the “Vampa di San Ciusieppe” are organised. The typical sweets of this occasion are the soft sfinci, simply made of flour and eggs and then fried before being covered in a kind of creamy ricotta.
The religious traditions of Easter, starting with the Holy Week and Palm Sunday, are eagerly followed in Cefalù.
On Good Friday the touching Solenne Processione (“Solemn Procession”) winds through the city’s streets behind the sacred images of the dead Christ and Mary Our Lady in Sorrow.
Palm Sunday focuses on the usual blessing of olive branches and palms, with the latter woven together following an ancient tradition.
On Easter Monday (the so-called Pasquetta, “little Easter”) everyone gathers to “satari i vadduna” (jump the torrents), or just to ramble in the countryside.
The food on offer is rich and varied: bullock’s meat and grilled sausages are the protagonists, as well as artichokes, sardines and boiled eggs.
The locally produced wine – amber in colour and with a decisive taste – is in abundance. And, literally sweeter-than-sweet, the Easter sweets known as pupa cull’uovu are biscuits of various shapes (baskets, lamps, fish, doves) containing whole eggs. These baskets are covered with sugar and then decorated with coloured sugar known as riavulicchi.
May, second half: TROFEO FLORIO
The Historical Rally known as the “Trofeo Florio” is part of the European Historic Sporting Rally Championship and the Italian Rally Trophy. Participating teams come not only from Italy, but also from France, Germany, Czech Republic, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States. Furthermore, some members of the famous “English Historic Motor Racing” club also take part, including the well-known collector Jason Stuart Wright. The rally finishes on the city’s G. Giardina seafront road.
June, up to the 15th: CORPUS DOMINI
On the day itself a procession follows the SS. Sacrament, whilst on its eve one of the oldest popular traditions of Cefalu takes place, the “Fruottola” or Feast of Bread. This is a kind of profane procession which does not involve the clergy, composed of a cohort of floral arrangements preceded by the ancient flags of the Corporation of the viddani (“peasants”), a vestige of the old festival of the Guilds and Corporations which lasted eight days (an “Ottava”). The procession, which has many children, is led by the tammurinaru (“drummer”). Characteristic of the procession are the participants who hold a stick with a kind of ring of bread known as cucciddatu stuck on the end, il fercolo rappresentato da un ostensorio, and some trees from whose branches fruits hang, and elaborate compositions of plants and flowers of various themes, though the most common represent mietitori [harversters], donkeys, doves and even the Cathedral of Cefalù.
July, 2: SS. SALVATORE ALLA TORRE
Already the focus of the festival held to mark the Transfiguration, here he is celebrated with the attribution of the title SS. Salvatore alla Torre (“of the Tower”), known in dialect as Sarbaturi Nicu (Little Salvatore) or Sarbaturieddu (Salvatorello in Italian).
August, from the 2nd to the 6th: SS. SALVATORE
When Sicily's temperature is soaring these five days witness Cefalù’s most important festival, dedicated once again to SS. Salvatore, who is in fact the city’s patron saint, and after whom the Cathedral is named.
During the afternoon of the 2nd of August a flag of SS. Salvatore is run up a flag-pole stuck on the roof of the cathedral, accompanied by banging of firecrackers and the playing of a band. There is no lack of festivity in the procession and the Solemn Mass in the Cathedral, two events in which not only citizens and the clergy take part, but also the military and civil authorities. Over this period the city is animated by a series of concerts and sporting events as well as the famous fireworks and festive street lights.
On the closing day of festivities, the 6th of August, a profane ritual linked to the sea takes place, the so-called 'ntinna a mari (“antenna on the sea”). A long pole – the “antenna” – is suspended over the water from the edge of the dock, and Cefalù’s best-balancing sailors compete to grab a flag hung from its furthest end.
The most particular dish of the event is the pasta a tianu (“al tegame” in Italian, “pan-fried”) flavoured with meat sauce, fried aubergines, abundant basil and pecorino cheese.
Throughout the Sicily summer a number of institutional events attract both the general public and visitors. Along with the city council’s initiatives are those of the businesses of some of the historic centre’s most important streets, who organise mostly gastronomic and musical events. There is no shortage of feasts, such as that dedicated to pesce azzurro (“blue-fish”: mackerel, sardines, anchovies and their ilk) in September, the Beer Festival around the 1st week followed by the “the white night” all night music and dancing on the sea front then the Gelato Festival in 2nd week together with the week of free movies at the Dafne Arena (open cinema) attended by both Italians and foreigners.
December, 8: L’ IMMACOLATA
The Immaculate, who has been another Patron of the city since 1954, is the protagonist of this religious festival characterized by an imposing procession following a representation of the Virgin Mary.
December, 13: S. LUCIA
This is the festival in memory of a miracle linked to the saint. It is said that in 1645 the Master Shoemaker Vincenzo Combi stayed late for work, and thus disrespected the abstinence from work one undertakes in respect of St. Lucia. It seems that as the shoemaker was punching holes in the sole of a shoe with his awl three drops of blood dripped from one of the holes.
The shoe mentioned above is preserved in the Church of S. Lucia and it is possible to see it during the Masses celebrated there every 13th of December (the Church can be found within the boundaries of the Club Med, and the Management allows the public to witness the display of the reliquiary via access from a path leading from the end of the seafront road G. Giardina).
December, 24-25: CHRISTMAS
During the Christmas period on Sicily, other than the usual (but always splendid) Christmas lights, nativity scenes, decorations and events, Cefalù offers an incredibly ancient historical tradition: this is the Ninnariedda, a kind of Christmas carol performed in the city’s streets.
Amongst the typical foods are the unmissable catuobisi biscuits of pastry filled with dried fruit.
December, 31: S. SILVESTRO
New Year’s Eve is dedicated to children.
The evening’s protagonist is the Vecchia Strina, a shrivelled and toothless old hag who according to tradition comes down from the Rocca where she lives, and goes and distributes gifts to children. Whilst the old woman gives out her sweets, a dense crowd follows her around the city’s streets by the light of lanterns.
For further details: www.comune.cefalu.pa.it/comune/Default.aspx