Our first time painting the historical island of Sicily, filled with much history and contrast, presented some unexpected experiences. The Sicilians are so used to being accommodating when plans changed at a moment’s notice but it was always for the best.
We commenced our adventure in the Land of the Gods (Sicily) with our transfer from Palermo to Trapani. Enzo, our guide was generous in arranging a late pickup by taxi for the airport due to late luggage arrivals. It is the worst thing to arrive without your art gear, let alone your clothes for a workshop.
On the first day, we commenced to paint all day at Erice, a beautiful Hilltop town, which was reached by cable car.
The next day we travel by boat to Mozia Island to paint the Phoenician ruins and the mansion before going to lunch. We painted the salt pans and wind mills for the rest of the day. Our bus took us to Selinute to paint the temples. We lunched by the sea and were supposed to stay there to paint. However, Ev suggested that since the countryside was so beautiful we should paint there instead. Enzo, with his Sicilian knowledge of unique places, drove us to the train station of Segesta, where we ate ice cream, while painting the country views, in the shade of the platform. The train station had not been used for two years since a flood washed away the tracks and the Government has not fixed the problem yet. Therefore, it was peaceful!
Saturday was not a painting day as we went to Palermo/Monreale to understand and appreciate the rich culture of the city. We returned via a country road, which revealed a rich and fertile land filled with vineyards and poppy fields. It was enjoyed by all.
On Sunday, we explored Trapani all day and Ev commenced painting at the decorated fountain in the public garden, next to the hotel. For lunch we walked through the ancient ‘’no traffic’’ road. There were plenty of places to paint and one of the town’s stairways was decorated with pictures made from fresh flowers.
The next day was a short drive to the town of Marsala. Through the ancient roman arched gateway the fishermen brought baskets of freshly caught fish of the day for the town people . This lead to a ‘no car’ area, which had beautiful Baroque buildings and a shady park with fountains for all to enjoy. There we painted all day.
On Tuesday, we departed Trapani to commence our journey to the other side of Sicily. We stopped at the Valley of the Temples near Agrigento. The traffic did prevent us to get there earlier so we only had 2 hours rather than the 3 hours allocated but many enjoyed walking and painting the last of the temples and purchasing beads from the peddlers. It is one of the most important archaeological parks and is a world heritage site. We arrived in the late afternoon for a two day stop at a country farm hotel. We enjoyed delightful Sicilian home cooked food, local wine and some even had a dip in the pool. There were views down the valley into the far distance of the city lights. The Sicilian landscape embraced us with the colourful wild flowers and poppies. We all wanted to stay to paint but we did not have the time. Next time we go, more time will definitely be allocated to the gorgeous, quiet spot.
On Wednesday, we went to Ragusa for a morning painting session and then to lunch at the nearby town of Modica. We also enjoyed the chocolate, which is famous in Sicily before settling under olive trees to paint the city’s cling houses, which is an interesting subject. During this time Enzo, through his contacts, assisted a lady to get emergency dental works.
The next day we continued our journey to Catania with a stop at Ragusa – Ortigia Island. While everyone was enjoying viewing the painting of Caravaggio, before boarding their tour boat with lunch provided, Enzo had arranged for an emergency ambulance to take a lady with my escort to the hospital. We were given special privileges at the hospital of Ragusa and I am so grateful to these hard-working doctors. She was given the all clear to continue with us to stay at Catania. Enzo organised also for the purchase of the medication and his own personal physician to visit her at the hotel, where the best care was also given by the staff. Arrangement for a family member to come to be with her on her departure from Italy was organized by our agent, Angela of Modica Travel. I am happy to say she arrived safe in Australia, five days later with her family and we hope she recovers well in the comfort of her home.
We arrived at Aci Trezza for the rest of our stay near Catania. It was a delightful place next to the sea. We had an outside undercover patio with views of the sea for painting and instructions from Ev. The food was good and the service very friendly. During our time there, the itinerary had to be changed to fit in with the G7 (which was very hush hush due to security reasons. Most locals and tourists did not realise this was happening until the actual day!) Presidents like Donald Trump had arrived in order to discuss the important environmental agenda.
Instead, we went to Etna, the famous volcano site and was enjoyed by all. We walked along the smaller crater, took a cable car to the furthest point up the crater or visited the small wooden stalls, which also had quality goods. It is so high that luckily Enzo warned us to bring something warm to wear. After lunch we painted in the forest where the force of nature is evident as it breaks the lava into rich soil, even if it takes 100 years.
The next day, Sunday, the G7 again interrupted our itinerary for Catania because the security guards had closed off the centre so we spent time at our beach hotel and painted the ancient fishing boats and enjoyed purchasing fresh strawberries and fruit/vegetables from the local hill farmers who came to sell to the fishing locals.
On Monday, we went to Savoca, the Godfather territory and there the mountains meet the sea. We went to Forza of Argo another town for lunch. So many subjects of the arid land to choose from.The bus driver was magnificent as he drove his vehicle around the bend, up and down the hills. The views were to die for and we were glad that he was a good driver.
The last day was Taormina. It was a free day of wandering and exploring the hill town where the delegates of G7 had visited the day before. Thankfully, we were able to enter to enjoy this beautiful town.
Sadly, the painting workshop, is now finished. I have to thank Enzo for his constant supervision of our care, our daily bottle of fresh water, our lovely pastry in the afternoon and his assistance in this venture into Sicily. Also, most importantly, I want to thank Ev Hales. Ev is an amazing teacher who is caring and gentle as she encourages everyone to try different methods in watercolour. She is very generous with her time and gathers all to herself when she demonstrates. The artists are very fortunate.
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