Two Sicilies Art Tour

Maggie Cowling Art Tours

7th to 29th September 2018 – 22 nights in Italy
Reggia di Casserta

A 3-week tour to Naples, Palermo and the Aeolian Islands for painters and discerning travellers with Maggie Cowling and David Disher.

This tour offers painters, of all levels and media, great painting and sketching opportunities in piazzas, markets, fishing villages, rooftops and gardens.

Meanwhile non-painters have their own dedicated itinerary to absorb the culture, history and landscape. It includes museums, libraries, archaeological parks, monuments and vistas.

The two itineraries are coordinated and travellers can swap between them.

This tour has been planned following the tremendously enthusiastic response to Maggie’s 2013 and 2014 tours to Sicily.

Why ‘Kingdom of the Two Sicilies’?
Naples and Sicily have a great deal of shared history and culture. After the events of the Sicilian Vespers in 1282, the monarchs of both Naples and Sicily called themselves ‘King (or Queen) of Sicily’, giving rise to ‘the Two Sicilies’, until the 19th century Spanish Bourbons united the two realms under the ‘Kingdom of the Two Sicilies’. But their shared story hails back to an ancient past, with Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab and Norman influences. They also both share the company of active volcanoes, survived the Spanish Inquisition, and boast stunning seaside towns, the influence of Caravaggio,
great theatres and magnificent food.

Amalfi coastline
Amalfi Coast

By settling into central accommodation in just 3 different locations, we can make the most of each place while taking day-trips to surrounding sights. We marvel at the magnificence of royal castles, apartments and collections in Naples and also, in contrast, enjoy the colourful street activity, and subterranean Naples. Excursions take us to fishing villages on the Amalfi Coast and the island of Procida, and the archaeological parks at Pompeii and Herculaneum.

On the Aeolian Islands we slow our pace and relax, visiting some of the islands and enjoying local cuisine. In Palermo we discover the brilliance and beauty of Arab-Norman architecture and Byzantine skill, and take excursions to ancient Phoenician and Greek towns and temples, windmilled salt pans and local market.

Painting at Segesta
Painting at Segesta

Naples – 7 nights

Our 4-star hotel in Naples is located on the esplanade, with terrace views of Vesuvius and the Bay. Built as a noble villa in 1914, it later housed the American Embassy and in 1944 it became a hotel and hub of Neapolitan cultural and social activity.

A short distance either side of our hotel are two of Naples’ most ostentatious castles – the Castel dell’Ovo, which has ancient Greek and Roman origins, and the thirteenth century Castel Nuovo.

Bay of Naples and Vesuvius
Piazza Plebiscito
Piazza Plebiscito

We are just around the corner from the sweeping colonnade of Piazza Plebiscito, and the sumptuous royal Bourbon apartments of the Palazzo Reale, which has housed the Farnese library since 1784 and now contains the 1800 papyri excavated from Herculaneum in the 18th century.

Alongside these monuments are the famous opera house, Teatro San Carlo, and the Galleria Umberto

While painters capture local colour and movement, lookers visit treasures such as the Veiled Christ, the Archaeological Museum (home of the Farnese sculpture collection and the mosaics and frescoes of Pompeii and Herculaneum), the Girolamini library and the Bourbonic underground tunnels.

Our itinerary takes us to various works by Caravaggio, and other masterpieces, including those in the Capodimonte collection.

A local ferry takes us to the island of Procida where lookers relax, eat and walk, and our artists revel in painting the picturesque ports.

We engage local authorised guides when feasible, not only because we are obliged to by local laws, but also because their local insight and expertise are invaluable, and we respect their ownership of their amazing heritage.

Procida beneath the fort
Procida beneath the fort

Beyond Naples, we visit the stunning Amalfi coast, painting in Amalfi and admiring the coastal villages from the water.

We spend a day painting and sketching at Pompeii and seeing the well-preserved, carbonised remains of Herculaneum.

And we travel by train (1930s carriages and E626 electric loco) to the 18th century Bourbon palace and gardens at Caserta, modelled on Versailles.

Via d'Acqua
Via d'Acqua

Amalfi beach
Amalfi Beach

The 8th night of our tour is spent in ferry cabins en route
to the Aeolian islands (for travellers who wish to avoid overnight ferry travel, other arrangements can be considered, which may involve a surcharge)

Amafi coastline
Amalfi coastline

The Aeolian Islands – 6 nights

Taking their name from Aeolus, King of the Winds, who helped and hindered Odysseus on his journey home to Ithaca, the islands’ history predates Homeric times. Neolithic inhabitants traded the vitreous obsidian spewed from the islands’ volcanoes. After the bronze age, the islands were at the mercy of pirates. The world class museum and archaeological site perched above the port of Lipari displays the booty that many passing civilisations have left behind.

A small and friendly community, its people make us feel very welcome, sharing their emerald waters and their busy little port. This is the hub of island life with its piazza and bars, fishmongers and singing fishermen.

Evening meals on Lipari are included at our hotel, which also has a heated hydro-massage pool for our enjoyment.

Weather permitting, we visit the island of Salina, famous for the Malvasia grape (and wine) and caper plants.

Our six nights on the islands give us a chance to relax.
On free days, we can travel to other islands, or stay in Lipari painting from the hotel, enjoying its swimming pool, or paddling in waters nearby

Lipari Marina
Lipari Marina

Viewing Stromboli

Salina takes the form of twin volcanic cones dotted with prickly pear and cubic whitewashed homes, their verandas draped with bougainvillea.

There is an optional boat trip to the nearby island Vulcano, and volcanic stacks. Vulcano’s volcano is accessible on foot for superb views of the islands. We will also aim to visit Stromboli, with its black beaches and white buildings. The farthest of the islands, its active volcano lets off steam every few minutes.

View from Vulcano crater
From the crater on Vulcano

  Palermo – 8 nights

On the way along the north coast of Sicily to Palermo, we stop in Bagheria to admire the decadent 18th century Villa Palagonia (a.k.a. Villa of Monsters) squeezed in by a concrete jungle and the nearby Gallery of Renato Guttuso’s paintings.

Our Palermo hotel – an elegant 18th century palazzo – is close to our local painting destinations. Its rooftop terrazza and bar offer tranquil painting opportunities whenever we please and a nearby rooftop is the destination for our “group dinner” with stunning views.

Palermo Palermo
Palermo panorama

Palermo nestles amongst impressive limestone mountains on the north-west coast of the island. Superimposed over Palermo’s Phoenician origins, and strikingly evident today, is the architecture of Norman Sicily. It evokes a golden age when Norman kings assumed the customs and learning of their Arab predecessors.

While our painting sites in Palermo are strongly suggestive of their history, be it Arab-Norman or Spanish Baroque, they are also part of an exciting, living city.

For the non-painters there are many attractions in Palermo, from the superb archaeological museum to colourful markets, intricate mosaics and elaborate Jesuit churches. There is a hidden Palermo of marbled courtyards, archives and Inquisition cells.

Palermo Palermo

From Palermo, our coach takes us on day excursions to some of the highlights of the western corner of Sicily.

We visit the renowned archaeological park of Agrigento where doric temples rise dramatically in groves of ancient gnarled olive trees.

Our coach takes us to the pretty Norman town of Cefalù, skirted by turquoise waters and crowned by a medieval fortress-like cathedral. There are hiking opportunities to the fort and temple on the cliff above the vibrant town.

Painters are challenged by a row of jumbled buildings rising from the waters of the cove where fishing boats are pulled up onto the beach.

Boats Cefalu

We head high above Palermo and the Conca d’Oro valley, once famed for its citrus groves, to Monreale. Here we admire a 12th century Norman cathedral, which combines Byzantine mosaics, Islamic tiling and sculpted Norman cloisters, and we paint the view to the port.

Another day we’re off to the ancient Elymian temple and theatre of Segesta set amongst wild fennel, artemisia and rosemary in the hills south of Palermo.

After 8 nights in Palermo, we depart from Palermo airport.

To register your interest in this tour call Maggie Cowling on 0438 298 741 or email her.

Duomo Cefalù
Duomo Cefalù

Maggie Cowling

Maggie Cowling planned, organised and conducted tours to Sicily and mainland Italy for about 15 years while working with her parents’ business, Margaret Cowling Arts. She is fluent in Italian, has studied Sicilian and Italian history and literature, as well as Classical Studies, and is an exhibiting artist. Maggie and her partner Piero recommenced tours as Maggie Cowling Art Tours in 2013 and this will be their fourth tour since then.

You can call Maggie on 0428 286 741 with any questions about this tour and to find more about her and view a gallery of her paintings click here.

David Disher

David Disher is a highly accomplished and well-travelled artist, who has collaborated on many previous art tours to Sicily and mainland Italy.

He is also an attentive and caring tutor.

Find out more about Dave and his artwork at

For full tour details including prices on printable PDF click HERE.

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