Palermo, the capital city of Sicily, rises up in a beautiful bay at the foot of Monte Pellegrino, on the northern coast of the island. It was originally called Panormos, or "port" in Phoenician times. The town prospered under the Romans, but its golden age was under Arab domination, when it rivaled Cordoba and Cairo in beauty.
Later, Palermo became the capital of the Norman kingdom. Today, very little remains of the fabulous city of bygone times, but the Middle Eastern influence can still be seen in the architecture of the churches, the many alleys in the old town, and the markets.
Another age of splendor, the Baroque period (17th-18th centuries), left a lasting mark on the city's civic and religious buildings.