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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. Eolie Aeolian Islands Tours and Excursions 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. Booking Hotels Giarre. The Normans took over in 1061. Booking Hotels Giarre They tore down almost all signs of Arab culture. Egadi Islands Map 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. Booking Hotels Giarre. It is to the Normans that we owe the most spectacular of Sicily's architectural treasures. Lampedusa Agriturismo 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. Booking Hotels Giarre. 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. Hostels in Messina Eventually, in 1302, the French gave way to the Aragonese (part of the same dynasty which sponsored Christopher Columbus), who dominated until 1734. Booking Hotels Giarre. The aristocracy created during this realm left their magnificent homes, such as Palermo's Palazzo Sclafani and Palazzo Chiaramonte, scattered all over the island. Segesta Map 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. Booking Hotels Giarre

For touring the island can be roughly divided into the north-shore and south-shore areas. Cheap Egadi Islands Hotels The north shore has reefs, olive groves, secluded coves and countless seaside resorts including Cefalu, a gorgeous Arab-Norman city with good beaches. Booking Hotels Giarre. West of center of the north coast is Palermo the ancient capital and the islandís largest city. Be sure to visit the central market and 12th-century Monreale Cathedral which is 6 mi/8 km west of town (it has impressive biblical mosaics). Hotels Campo Bello di Mazara About 50 mi/80 km west of Palermo lies the ancient village of Erice atop a mountain: It still has remains of a temple dedicated to Venus. Booking Hotels Giarre. The southern coast has an even milder climate so thereís swimming most of the year (although it can get cold there between November and March). Campo Bello di Mazara Tours and Excursions  

Palermo was founded by Phoenicians who sailed there from their native Carthage. Discount accommodation Palermo The Greeks colonized the whole island, leaving some of the most beautiful and best-preserved temples they ever built at Agrigento, Selinunte and Segesta. Booking Hotels Giarre. Around those glorious sites they planted Sicily's first olive trees and grape vines. Sant Agata Militello Holiday Accommodation 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. Booking Hotels Giarre. In Palermo, these groups were known as mafia. Solunto Map

Ironically, the earthquake that devastated the southeastern provinces in 1693 became the springboard for Sicily's most glorious period, the baroque. Cheap accommodation in Eolie Aeolian Islands It gleams in the cities and towns of Palermo, Catania, Siracusa, Ragusa, Noto, Comiso, Scicli and dozens more, all of which had to be rebuilt from the ground up. Marsala Hotels After the Aragonese, Sicily passed briefly into the hands of the Austrians, to be willingly rescued in 1734 by the Bourbons of Spain, whose throne was actually located in Naples. Booking Hotels Giarre. During one forced exile in Palermo, the Bourbon king Ferdinand's wife Maria Carolina (sister of Marie Antoinette) built La Favorita. , A magnificent refuge in which to hide from the subjects she thoroughly loathed. Giardini Naxos Accommodation Sicily remained in Bourbon hands until 1861, when unification created the Kingdom of Italy.

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