A few years ago I organised two painting trips to Trapani in Sicily for my students.  I live in Malta, so it was just a very short – and cheap – Ryanair flight to get there. We spent every day painting outdoors and really did a lot of work between us. We had a good time exploring some interesting sites …..  as well as feasting on glorious fresh fish and local wines!

One intriguing place we visited was ‘La Grotta Mangiapani’ described as ‘a village where time stands still’.  This huge cave is in Scurati, part of the Mount Cofano Reserve in Custonati, about 30 minutes from Trapani by car. The cave has been inhabited since Palaeolithic times and in the 1800’s was turned into a small village by the Mangiapani family. Four family units lived there for 150 years until after the Second World War, when most of the inhabitants emigrated. The Di Rosario family continued to live there, using  it as a large stable and store. In 1982, destroyed by the animals and quite derelict,  a group of young people from Custonaci decided to restore the place and hold an annual Live Crib in the cave. It took years to restore the abandoned buildings and surrounding areas. They sourced examples of traditional tools and wares, and it is now a kind of living museum , with animals in the pens and the rooms displaying various crafts such as the making of barrels, clothes, puppets, carts, and  food. It’s all very well done and we had a great time exploring before we settled down to paint.

It’s a challenge to draw such a massive cliff and keep the sense of scale and perspective – I’m not sure how well I managed but it was fun trying.


My visit with the second group was on a Sunday and we were overrun by about 50 motorbikers obviously on a Tour, and entertained by a group of traditional singers in local costume…..  they did kind of disrupt our painting, but they offered to share their wine with us, so we forgave them !!

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