|Duchy of Apulia|
|Sep 15 1066|
This Walkthrough begins at the 1066 start date. Starting earlier will change the owners of titles in de jure Sicily. The d'Hautevilles, Normans who control the bulk of southern Italy and one county in Sicily, start in a fairly strong position for expansion. The main goal for the player should be the formation of the Kingdom of Sicily, which can be done at the start, but is expensive to pull off. There's also little reason to rush for it, since no one else stands a chance to form it.
Because of the number of small, independent counties in the de jure territory of the Kingdom of Sicily, it is advisable to start eating them up (especially Sicily, where a number of easy holy wars will net you the whole island). The Muslims will be the first target, then after Sicily is formed, the rest of the counties that are rightfully part of the Sicilian crown.
Let's get started.
At the Beginning
Dispatch your councilors. Let your marshal and steward research techs in Apulia, your court chaplain work on converting Catanzaro (since that county belongs to you), and your spymaster study technology somewhere in the Middle East (I prefer Cairo for no particular reason). Your chancellor is not in great need now. You can send him to Byzantion to improve relations with the Byzantine Emperor. The idea behind this is that you should try to keep good relations up with him because the Kingdom of Sicily is de jure part of the BE, and you (I hope!) want to remain independent.
In terms of ambitions, it's a good idea to work toward getting the Duchy of Apulia under your control. It's a nice three-county duchy, and if you control all three counties, you won't have any negative relationship modifiers from counts within it. However, let's leave that be for now. It's better to wait until you've finished with the uniting of Sicily's de jure territory.
You should also take direct guardianship of your son and heir, Bohemond, so that you can shape him into the ruler you want him to be.
You will notice that Apulia has gavelkind succession, so upon Duke Robert's death, the Duchy of Calabria will be split off. We are prevented from changing succession laws because Duke Robert has reigned for only about nine years at the start, and some vassals have a negative opinion of him. Time and honorary titles will rectify these problems.
Our first course of action will be to enact primogeniture, then we can start expanding in Sicily. Note that we must enact primogeniture (or elective) before claiming the Kingdom title, or we'll be unable to change to Primogeniture due to our Crown Authority.
By mid-January of 1067, only two vassals had negative opinions of me: the count of Reggio, who I placated by offering him guardianship of a son that had come of age, and the prince-bishop of Benevento, to whom I gave an honorary title. Then it was easy to change the law. Unfortunately, this made the Beneventian man unhappy, and I have a small revolt risk. No matter, deal with that. Now that my counties are secured from passing out of my control, it's time to start warring.
Gaining the Island of Sicily
Wait some time for the two-county Muslim sheikh in Sicily to get involved in a war. He can raise just as many troops as you, but if he's preoccupied somewhere else, you stand a much better chance of winning. I called in my allies, Capua and Salerno (you start with both of these as allies through virtue of marriage), and we besieged Palermo while our enemy was attacking another Muslim on the island and getting crushed by his enemy's allies. I only had to fully occupy Palermo before he surrendered.
Holy wars make this easy. Give your troops some time to recuperate, then go after the next.
But first, it seems that the Suleimids have declared Holy War for Calabria. Call in allies, accept offers to join the war. All that you'll have to do is somehow defeat the armies they land. You'll run up warscore just for having Calabria be unoccupied! Just a few months into the war, the Pope, the Duchy of Duklja, and Croatia all offered to join my war, and we defeated an army handily. In five short years, he surrendered, and I gained a good 130 gold out of it.
A quick and easy Holy War for Girgenti was won without the aid of any allies, as was the one for Trapani.
About now I started saving up to create the Kingdom of Sicily. You can really do it whenever you like, but it's easier to focus on it when you have some semblance of an income. The money gained from sieges and ransoming prisoners helps a lot, too.
The Kingdom of Sicily
Another holy war for Malta (not pictured), and now I had enough money (some 300 gold) to form the Kingdom of Sicily!
And now some easy wars with the mainland counties that aren't vassalised yet. Offer them vassalisation, and if they don't accept, a war will force them to.
From here, there are a few options. Expansion into North Africa should be initially easy, until you run into the Fatimids in the east or the Almoravids in the West. You can also go for the Mediterranean islands.
What may be most rewarding is attempting to unite Italy by getting the Kingdom of Italy from the HRE. The best method to do this will be to take counties off of rebels in the HRE. To do this, you'll need to get claims. Marry or fabricate. Sowing dissent with a good chancellor will be useful. You can set the goal of forming the Empire of Italia.
You may find yourself fighting off the Byzantine Empire at times. All I can say is get some allies and use terrain and defensive advantages. When feuding with a strong foe, be aggressive in taking lands during their civil wars to both weaken them slightly and misdirect their efforts away from your choicest lands. And good luck.