Sicily, the home of Mount Etna, ancient ruins, the ‘friend of the friends’, beautiful food, delicious ice cream, and the Cefalù Gelato Festival…mmmm gelato. I am about to embark on my Sicilian odyssey, this is the story of Cefalù and Gelato.
The call was from my mate Kyp, “how do you fancy ten days in Sicily?” he asked. I was working for Big Earth but the job was coming to an end, as was the summer, and the timing was just right. We had spent the previous six months organising the boss’ trips across the globe for his book 101 Amazing Adventures of the World and I needed a break, so I replied “hell yeah.”
I have a few stories to tell about our time in Sicily, crazy drivers in Palermo, eating out, getting lost in Alcamo but the one I want to tell you today, is about the little coastal town of Cefalù and Gelato.
As we arrived in the town of Cefalù the stalls lay empty, waiting to be filled with delicious gelato from around the world. Gelato or ice cream as it is better known, from as far afield as South Africa, Libya and Morocco and the stalls were just waiting to serve the hordes of hungry festival goers.
Sicily Flag – the Triskelion
All the stalls were proudly displaying their national or regional flag and it was the Sicilian flag which caught my eye.
The Sicilian flag is distinctive due to the presence of the triskelion which dominates the flag. The triskelion is the winged head of Medusa and three wheat ears, the three bent legs apparently represent the points of the triangular shape of Sicily itself.
The flag was adopted in 1282 after a successful revolt against Charles I of Sicily. The bright colours of the triskelion represent the cities of Palermo and Corleone (of Godfather fame) who founded a confederation against the ruling Capetian House of Anjou.
Cefalù and Gelato
But back to the real reason for my visit, we came for the sun, sea and sweet sweet gelato. It was the fourth edition of the Gelato Festival – a four-day bonanza of all things ice cream.
The origins of Sicilian gelato have been much debated over the years with many different schools of thought putting their theories forward. Some support a Roman or Greek creation, while others say it is an Arab invention. You can read all the theories here.
The aforementioned tasting booths sprang to life as families, young couples and teenagers inch forward to taste the specially prepared treats.
Music is pumped into the narrow, cobblestoned street and a party atmosphere rips through the crowd. Then I saw something I really wasn’t expecting, the crowd parts and into the main square walks a wedding party, the groom dressed in a garish silver suit with matching shoes still manages to look like a young Errol Flynn – thin moustache included.
Gelato, mmm Gelato
There were 31 stalls offering 31 different types of gelato ranging from chocolate to pistachio, the stalls were spread out across four areas around the town centre, from the cathedral to the beach.
The making of Gelato – the traditional way
Tucked away in one little corner of the town just off the main square was a demonstration of the traditional way of making gelato. The old men were putting much effort into churning the gelato, you had to admire their stamina.