Cefalà Diana. The Arab Norman spa.

Cefalà Diana. The ancient mini spa 36 km from Palermo.

You can’t go wrong. Just take the main road from Palermo to Agrigento and then turn off at Bolognetta. The castle of Cefalà Diana, probably of Islamic origin, leads the way and the SP 77 takes you straight to the entrance of this enchanted place. Next to the river, at the foot of Cefalà and Pizzo Chiarastella which gives its name to the natural reserve all around, is a restored farmhouse, which houses this spa facility of Arabic origin.

Oculi in the barrel vaulted ceiling

Palms, agave and broom all surround the house, welcoming visitors to this ancient mini spa. Tubs of warm and cold water alternate, surrounded by stone walls with arabesque windows all topped by an impressive vaulted ceiling studded with round Norman ‘oculi’ for ventilation. The spa is divided into two areas , separated by three pointed arches which are in turn supported by slender, elegant columns, that house basins for washing, walkways and niches to accommodate clothes and linens. The Baths of Diana Cefalà were originally fed by intermittent natural springs, now inactive. Currently, the water for the system comes from the well of nearby Villafrati .

Until 1990, the year in which the ‘Sovrintendenza’ took possession of the place and donated it back to the local community, the baths were used in summer as actual pools or watering holes and as shelter for the flocks of local shepherds .

The building’s exterior is made of massive stone walls and an Arabic inscription , only partly visible, is carved in the sandstone on three sides of the building. In the windows that overlook one of the short sides you can easily see barn owls nests, a protected species that has returned to re-populate the area. The Baths of Diana Cefalà now belong to the nature reserve of the same name that was established in 1997. An ecosystem of nearly 140 acres surrounds the thermal plant amplifying its impact. Paths and trails wind through the hills and Pizzo Chiarastella, snaking through wild orchids, daffodils, oaks and ‘guiccioni’ (multicolor birds, very fond of bees).

Distaccamento Riserva Naturale Orientata Bagni di Cefalà Diana & Chiarastella, SP 77 km 15, Cefalà Diana (PA) — Tel + 39 091 8291551

Originally published at www.ariles.it on May 15, 2014.

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