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Sicily, the largest of the Mediterranean islands, lies between southern Italy and North Africa. Car Hire Erice The island can be seen as a "stepping stone" between Europe and Africa. Acireale Map. A beautiful, mountainous island, Sicily has been occupied by a series of migrants and invaders. These include the Greeks, Cathaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Angevins and Spaniards. In 1861 Sicily became part of Italy when Garibaldi united the Kingdom of Italy and the island. Acireale Map Eighty-five years later Sicily achieved "relative independence". This means that although Sicily belongs to Italy it is responsible for much of its own local affairs. Acireale Map. The island is divided into nine provinces: Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Catania, Enna, Messina, Palermo, Ragusa, Siracusa and Trapani. Information about Cefalu Throughout history islands have been invaded by foreign powers. Flats in Licata However, Sicily's rugged terrain has provided its people with a degree of protection as many of its towns and villages are high in the mountains. Acireale Map

As elsewhere in the Roman Empire, the Romans were replaced by the Vandals and the Ostrogoths, who demolished far more than they built (one rare example is the villa of Piazza Armerina) and were swept away by the Byzantines. Lampedusa Villa Rentals The Arabs who followed them moved the capitol from Siracusa to Palermo, renamed most of the existing towns, and planted the first carobs, date-palms, citrus trees, jasmines and melons. Acireale Map. The Normans took over in 1061. Acireale Map They tore down almost all signs of Arab culture. Farmhouses in Giardini Naxos They brought the island to a new level of prosperity and planted a different kind of seed, still visible today in the blonde and red tresses of many Sicilians. Acireale Map. It is to the Normans that we owe the most spectacular of Sicily's architectural treasures. Nightlife Entertainment in Palermo From the cathedrals of Cefalý, Messina and Monreale to Palermo's Zisa and Cuba, the churches of San Giovanni degli Eremiti, San Cataldo and the Martorana. Under the realm of Frederick II, the Swabian king, Sicily became one of the centers of the Western world, and perhaps it is not surprising that the principal architectural endeavors of this era. These lasted only from 1220 to 1250, were of a military nature, such as the castles in Siracusa, Catania and Salemi. Acireale Map. When Frederick died in 1250, his successor Manfred was murdered by the ruthless Charles of Anjou, whose French allies streamed into the island and established a new aristocracy so despised that it led to the popular uprising called the Sicilian Vespers. Nebrodi photos Eventually, in 1302, the French gave way to the Aragonese (part of the same dynasty which sponsored Christopher Columbus), who dominated until 1734. Acireale Map. The aristocracy created during this realm left their magnificent homes, such as Palermo's Palazzo Sclafani and Palazzo Chiaramonte, scattered all over the island. Acitrezza lodging The Aragonese clergy, while wielding the heavy arm of the Inquisition, effectively conspired to keep almost all artistic traces of the Renaissance out of the island.  

The Aeolian Islands off the coast at Milazzo are well worth a visit. Acireale Map Mentioned in Homerís Odyssey and thought to be the home of Aeolus (the god of the wind) by the ancient Greeks, they offer spectacular volcanic scenery and fine beaches. Acireale Map. The island of Lipari is the most developed. Calendar of events in Cefalu Sample some of the islandís sweet white Malvasia wine while here. Head for Taormina Ė Sicilyís most picturesque town. Ragusa photos Its magnificent setting on a terrace of Monte Tauro overlooking the sea and its views of Mt Etna have long made it a top tourist destination. Acireale Map. The town was an important centre for trade and art through successive Roman, Norman, Spanish and French rules. Sicily Tours and Excursions

Palermo was founded by Phoenicians who sailed there from their native Carthage. Farmhouses in Acitrezza The Greeks colonized the whole island, leaving some of the most beautiful and best-preserved temples they ever built at Agrigento, Selinunte and Segesta. Acireale Map. Around those glorious sites they planted Sicily's first olive trees and grape vines. Lampedusa Car Hire Traces of the Roman period in Sicily can be found in the amphitheatres at Taormina and Siracusa, as well as in that city's Christian catacombs. But perhaps Rome's most lasting (and infamous) contribution to the island came in fostering the great land ownerships which eventually impoverished the peasantry and led, many centuries later, to the founding of secret societies aimed at destroying the fabulously wealthy landlords. Acireale Map. In Palermo, these groups were known as mafia. Tourist Information office centre Sciacca

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