Palermo perches at the foot of Monte Pellegrino at the heart of a large natural harbour. Founded in the 5th century, it has alternately enjoyed and endured one of the most colourful histories of any Mediterranean city. Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, Arabs, Goths, Vandals have all come and gone, leaving their mark on the population as well as the architecture.
Despite being a lively modern city where the million inhabitants going about their daily business with the traditional Italian mix of style, noise and organised confusion, there is history at every turn from the Arab-Norman artistry of the fabulous, mosaic-laden Palazzo dei Normanni to the Capuchin Catacombs full of Palermitans mummified by the Capuchin monks.
Just outside Palermo is Monreale with its lavishly decorated cathedral one of the worlds ten most visited monuments.