Homemade Chicken Stew in Cefalu, Sicily

Cefalu Medieval District and Sandy Beaches

The Tyrrhenian sea laps gently along the beaches of Cefalu as the curvature of the land cuts into the medieval town. Sounds of sea birds occasionally pierce the gentle ocean breeze. My overnight train from Rome left me here to escape the big city atmosphere and experience a few days of southern village life in Sicily.

Cefalu Beach Promenade

Cefalu Beach Promenade

The long promenade leads me toward town from the small bus station. Before long, two local men approach me. They have rooms to rent and wonder if I need a place to stay. After a chat with them, I decide to go with the one that looks more trustworthy. His name is Angelo. I grab my bag and walk with him into the heart of the medieval district. He keeps up a fast pace for his robust build. His black pants are held up over a white t-shirt by old threadbare suspenders, revealing a pair of badly worn loafers. I sense a genuine spirit and like him from the start.

The morning air is cool and moist with the smell of salted fish. As we enter the old part of town, we turn onto Cortile Siracusani Street and pass through a tunnel into a tiny square courtyard where Angelo lives with his family. The narrow buildings are tall and crowd together.  Winding stairways, small iron balconies, and pots of flowers add a touch of charm. Angelo has a small apartment above his home with a kitchen that I agree to rent for a few days.

While exploring the village that afternoon, I decide to make a chicken stew in my kitchen. Stepping inside a small macelleria, butcher shop, I see meaty chicken legs behind the glass. “Prendo due gambe, per favore,” I’ll take two chicken legs, please. The balding man behind the counter wraps them in paper and points to a packet of seasoning. I shake my head yes, and pay him. My next stop is the verdure, vegetable shop. Here I buy potatoes, carrots and mushrooms. What a welcome change from home, where all my groceries are purchased in one store.

 Chicken Stew

My delicious Sicilian stew!

After I return to my apartment, I run up the stairs to the kitchen and pull out a large pot. I brown the chicken legs in oil, add water and the seasoning packet, and simmer. Soon the vegetables are added. While it is bubbling away, I look through the window and notice the courtyard almost completely immersed in shadow as the sun begins to set. Lights start to flicker behind curtains as the night closes in.

The room fills with the pungent aroma of rosemary and sage. I ladle up a bowl full of rich meaty goodness. My stew is a success.

Marina with Norman ruins in background

Marina with Norman ruins in background

Walking the medieval village deepens my understanding of close living. Narrow winding streets hug corners. Laundry dries from upper story clothes lines and voices carry down through open windows. Gray stonework is dotted with black motorbikes.

Medieval Laundry Room

Medieval Laundry Room

These medieval wash basins, located close to the beach, sit on the site of ancient Roman public baths that were later converted by the Arabs. The Discesa River provided the water for washing.

My walk along the ocean involves some climbing upward through rocky pathways lined with brush. Ocean mist clings to my hair and clothes like a web.

Basilica of Cefalu

Basilica of Cefalu ~ styled in Arabic, Norman and Greek

Christ Pantrocratore

Christ Pantrocratore above the altar

Cefalu is one place I would love to revisit. The medieval village, the amazing shore-path views and the tasty chicken stew all culminate into an outstanding memory.

I encourage you to view the following video on Cefalu put out by The Compulsive Traveler. It gives excellent footage of the medieval village and, interestingly enough, the courtyard and apartment they stayed in appears to be the very same one I found. http://www.compulsivetraveler.tv/videos/1160-The-medieval-district-Cefalu-Sicily



Categories: History

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14 replies

  1. Ahhhh Cefalù, one of the most beautiful places in the world! And one of my most relaxing holidays!!! Thanks for bringing back the happy memories Susan!!

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  2. Amazing place full of wonders. The stew looks delicious! J

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  3. Excellent, excellent descriptions! Way to be with the local, live like it! and actually get the very sense of it. Love the close quarters look and feel of the place. Very nicely composed post. Great job!

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  4. Would love to have the recipe for that Sicilian Stew, wanna share 🙂 please?

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    • Well, what I did was buy good sized chicken legs from the butcher, then I bought carrots, potatoes, onion,garlic and mushrooms at the verdure, or produce shop. The secret ingredient that I can’t provide came from the butcher. He sold me a packet of seasonings that I added to the stew. It was a brand I never heard of. The flavor was amazing. I know it had basil, sage and rosemary in it. But I could not find the equivalent here. I wish I could provide you with a better recipe….

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  5. Beautiful photos and so evocative. Haven’t been to Cefalu yet but have friends from the area. Must plan a trip there soon.

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  6. I spent a month in Cefalu, this post sent me into a deju vu! I could smell the salt in the air, recalled my first meeting with Angelo, walking along lungomare!! A place that I will revisit everytime I visit Italy. Thank you for a such a great post I enjoyed reading this!!!(Whitney)

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  7. Oh! Thank you so much. What a pleasure to be highlighted on Memory Monday. Thank you, Sophomore:)

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