On the north-west coast of Sicily around a natural enclave you will find the wonderfully historic harbor city of Palermo. The city was founded in 8 BC by Phoenician traders who recognized the natural advantages of the area and settled here. While the Phoenician name for the city may have been something completely different, the Greeks called it Panormus and it is this name which seems to have stuck. Palermo is one of the most conquered cities in the world.
While it was founded by the Phoenicians, it was the Romans who first conquered it. Not long afterwards, it fell under the rule of the Eastern Byzantine Empire. After a strange turn of events, invading Saracens soon captured the city and Palermo came under Arab rule. It was the Arab rulers who moved Sicily's capital to Palermo where it still is today. Under their rule the city became an important commercial and cultural center. However things changed when the Normans launched a crusade against the Muslim emirate of Sicily. They captured the city in 1072. Following capture of the whole island, Norman and Arab culture began to blend. This resulted in the unusual hybrid architectural style that can be seen in the Palatine Chapel, the San Giovanni degli Eremiti church and the Zisa. Just over a hundred years later Sicily fell to the control of the Holy Roman Empire, only to slowly change hands until it came under Spanish control. In 1734 the Kingdoms of Napels and Sicily were unified - despite rebellions against the Neapolitan crown. 1860 saw the annexation of Sicily to the kingdom of Italy which meant that Palermo was able to go from being a mere provincial city to becoming the administrative center of Sicily. It has remained a part of Italy ever since but has received a very varied influence over the years from its many conquests.
When it comes to monuments, Palermo is one of the richest cities in Italy. The Cathedral of Palermo, the San Cataldo, the Oratorio di San Lorenzo and the Martorana churches are just a few examples of the unusual religious heritage in the city. If you prefer to stay away from religion, you might try the Palazzo dei Normanni, the Zisa, the Cuba or the Palazzo Abatellis where you can also enjoy whatever is on display at the Regional Gallery. These palaces and museums are varied and different and are a real treat for both architectural enthusiasts as well as history lovers. You can also take in a show at one of the two spectacular theatres or simply while away an hour or two at the Piazzi Pretoria fountain. There are really so many activities in Palermo that your days will be filled with many endless delights. You'd better make sure that you stick around for more than just a day or two if you want to see everything the city has to offer.