Sicily is Italy's largest island and the largest island in the political region of Italy, famed for its beautiful beaches, cuisine, and fascinating history.
Because of its strategic location, Sicily was invaded over the centuries by many armies, and was once the site of Roman, Greek and Phoenician colonies. For history-buffs and interested tourists, remnants of those cultures remain to this day.
As the Roman Empire fell apart, a Germanic tribe known as the Vandals overpowered Sicily in 440 AD under the ruling of King Geiseric. They were a short lived kingdom, as the Byzantine Empire pushed their way in by the late 400's.
The Byzantine's used Sicily as a base to conquer the rest of Italy, and ultimately the capital of the empire was moved to Syracuse, Sicily in 663.
Defeated by the Arabs in 965, land reforms were initiated, and an increase in productivity on the island encouraged growth. Under the ruling Arabs, native Christians were given freedom of religion, however, they had to pay a tax, and were greatly limited in their occupations, dress and participation in public affairs.
Internal strife weakened the Muslim regime, and by the 11th century the Normans (descendents of Vikings) gained control of Sicily.
The Norman dynasty ultimately died out after a century of ruling, and the crown passed on to the German Hohenstaufens. By 1266, a conflict between the Papacy and Hohenstaufen house led to Pope Innocent IV crowning French prince Charles as king of Sicily.