Sketching & Painting in Puglia



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Activity types:

  • Central location
  • Food & drink
  • Hills & moorland
  • Outdoors

Holiday overview

Be inspired by the enchanting landscapes of Puglia, an undiscovered gem of Italy. Capture the magic of the ancient olive trees, whitewashed hilltop forts, curious ‘Trulli’ houses and wild beauty of the Alta Murgia in your artwork.

Holiday highlights

  • We’ll spend most of the day outdoors seeking out the best light, colours and landscapes
  • Our professional artist leader will guide and encourage
  • Enjoy the sociable atmosphere of painting in a group
  • Small groups of up to 15 fellow-artists

Price includes 

  • Good quality en-suite accommodation in one of our European partner hotels
  • Half Board – continental breakfast and evening meal
  • Tuition from our knowledgeable HF Holidays’ leader, to ensure you get the most from your holiday
  • All transport to and from painting sites
  • ‘With flight’ holidays include return flights from the UK and hotel transfers


Hotel San Nicola in Altamura, Italy

The 4-star Hotel San Nicola dates back to 1741, it has been beautifully restored and is located in the centre of the picturesque old town of Altamura. 

This charming town is on the doorstep with easy access to its shops, picturesque streets and attractions. Sample some of the breads and its well known Focaccia de Altamura (topped with tomatoes and herbs).


Your room

There are 27 modern en-suite bedrooms.

All bedrooms are equipped with a:

  • Phone
  • Air conditioning
  • Flat screen
  • TV
  • Minibar
  • Complimentary toiletries
  • Hairdryer
Hotel San Nicola bedroom


Hotel San Nicola hall The hotel has a:
  • 24-hour reception,
  • Room service,
  • Laundry,
  • Ironing and dry cleaning service (extra charge)


Holidays at Altamura are Half Board with continental breakfast and evening meals at two of Altamura's restaurants.

Continental buffet breakfast: this is served from 7am in the courtyard dining room. This will include cereals, fruit juices, yoghurt, fresh fruit, cheeses/meats, selection of breads and croissants, jams, tea and coffee.

Lunch (payable locally)
Packed lunches can be bought from the local shops a few minutes from the hotel and can also be purchased from the hotel.
Evening meal
One of the highlights of this holiday is that our guests dine out in Altamura at a local restaurant that serve local dishes and specialities. A 3-course dinner will be served at the Tre Archi Restaurant every evening except on Saturdays and Wednesdays when we will be dining at the newly refurbished restaurant at Hotel San Nicola. 

This restaurant is within easy walking distance of our hotel and guests can experience the "passiagata", an Italian tradition where the locals with their families and friends walk out in the evening socialising, and take in this unique atmosphere.


Altamura Dining Room

Your Evenings

The friendly atmosphere of our holidays continues into the evening.

Most of our socialising at Altamura is over a relaxed meal, opportunity to talk about your day with your fellow guests and sample some local wines and dishes. See the town came alive in the evening with all the local families walking out, treating their children to ice creams and just sitting over a coffee.


This is the proposed programme, but our HF Holidays' leader may adjust it at their discretion, taking into account factors such as weather or local opening times or the wishes of the group.


We will begin exploring the cobblestone streets of medieval Altamura with our sketchbooks. Highlights include the Romanesque Cathedral with its rose window and Gothic portal and a plethora of artisan bakeries producing traditional regional bread. We spend the afternoon sketching and painting the wealth of subject matter in and around Altamura. Murray will guide you through tips and techniques for scene selection, composition and a practical look at simplifying perspective


The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Alberobello and its Trulli villages

Today we head to Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famed for its round ‘Trulli’ houses built with dry stone walls and conical roofs, an enchanting subject for sketching and painting. Today Murray will pay particular attention to offering tricks and techniques for describing texture and form.


The coast of the Valle d’Itria, with its charming Porta Vecchia gate and Chiesa Matrice

A shining gem on the coast of the Valle d’Itria, perched atop a 20 metre high limestone cliff above the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic Sea, the seaside town of Polignano a Mare awaits. The origins of this curious tiny old town date back to the Greek settlers of the 4th century BC. Polignano is reached through the Porta Vecchia gate, and combines charming, white-washed winding streets with beautiful old churches such as the Chiesa Matrice. We’ll head to the ocean view terraces to enjoy some seascape painting at its very best. Murray will also offer guidance on ways to convey texture and wear of old buildings and tips for enhancing some of our simpler sketches.  

Trani, the ‘Pearl of Puglia’

Dramatic waterside cathedral, Swabian castle and bustling harbour

The ancient fishing harbour of Trani, also known as the ‘Pearl of Puglia’, on the Adriatic coast boasts a dramatic waterside cathedral, Swabian castle dating back to 1233 and a harbour brimming with yachts and fishing vessels. We’ll take the opportunity to capture the boats, the sea and the harbour, all with Murray on hand to offer guidance on trickier subjects such as painting water and reflections. 


An ancient and subterranean city

We spend our final day at the ‘subterranean city’ of Matera, one of the oldest towns in the world, with continuous habitation for around 7,000 years. Simple natural caves (called the ‘sassi’) dotted the gorge and were adapted into dwellings between which an ingenious canal network has been created for water supply and sewage. In the 9th century Benedictine and Basilian monks occupied the caves and some of the world’s earliest cave paintings found are found here and date back to this era. We cannot fail to be inspired by the stories and history of this unique setting. There is a wealth of possibilities here to further sharpen up our drawing and painting skills as well as capturing some unique Puglian scenes onto paper. 

Our 7 night holidays include a free day, where you're free to relax, enjoy the hotel's facilities or explore the local area independently.

What to bring

To enjoy your holiday comfortably and safely, it’s essential that your clothing and footwear is suitable for the conditions likely to be encountered. Changeable weather is possible throughout the year, so our advice is to come prepared for all eventualities – hot, cold, wet or dry.

All of our Sketching & Painting holidays involve walking whilst carrying your equipment. You should therefore be prepared for doing so on uneven terrain and wear flat, comfortable shoes. In the evening most guests wear casual clothing.

You will need to bring the following items. Please remember that you will have to carry these on painting excursions and possibly also pay extra if you exceed your luggage allowance.

  • Appropriate clothing, sturdy footwear (eg walking boots) and a wide-brimmed hat or plastic eye shade 
  • Rucksack or small case on wheels to transport art materials to and from painting locations – remember that you will have to carry your equipment, spare clothing, lunch, drinking water, sunscreen etc from the coach to the place where you are to paint or sketch. We strongly advise against bringing shopping bags or bags with long shoulder straps, which can swing and dangle, causing imbalance and possible trips and falls
  • A lightweight folding chair/stool if you have one, alternatively a cushion, garden kneeler or plastic seat pad

Paints - Guests are invited to bring their own preferred medium. A small watercolour box with yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna and Raw Umber would be perfect. Other suggested colours might include: Cadmium Yellow Pale, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Red Pale, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Cobalt Blue, Ultra Marine Blue, Raw Umber, Raw Sienna and Yellow Ochre (Titanium White if you are using opaque mediums like Gouache or Acrylics). These are Murray's everyday colours but please only bring what you are used to or has been bought for you.

Brushes – Suggested sizes: 4, 6, 8 or 10 and a rigger brush (or just what you are using). Any reasonable quality will suffice e.g. Sable and synthetic blend or even just synthetic so long as they come to a nice point.

A folding palette or palette with wells for mixing, plastic is good for its lightness.

Paper - Any reasonable size in the paper and surface of your choice, Murray uses NOT and Hot Pressed Saunders Waterford 1/8 imperial sizes

Sketchpad - Murray uses an A5 sketchpad of good quality cartridge paper for his travels. A4 size paper would be handy too. He also uses waterproof ink technical pens in sizes 0.05 and 0.3 in combination with water-soluble graphite pencils, a 'B' grade is fine and a water brush pen either Derwent or Pentel are good in a medium size, this is a terrific way of sketching, this allows you to travel light!

Other smaller items:

  • pencils, sharpener, kneadable eraser
  • small lightweight water pot (non-tip best) 
  • 1 water bottle (for clean water) 
  • Paper towels / rag
  • Coloured watercolour pencils (entirely optional and only if you have them, but they can be useful for quick colour reference and enhancing)

Please note, on European holidays we are unable to provide easels or A3 painting boards for guests to borrow.

Local area

Explore the narrow streets of this historic town and you will find the interesting Romanesque-Gothic cathedral which has the most intricately carved portal in Puglia, and 14th/15th century miniature sculptures. The alleyways or “claustri”, distinctive to Altamura usually end in small courtyards. This area has prehistoric sites where you can see dinosaurs’ footprints and “Man of Alamura”, a Paleolithic skeleton.

We loved the location of this holiday, it felt like we were seeing the real Italy, not many tourists in Altamura so no exceptions made. The town was celebrating a religious festival, the main square where we stayed was particularly beautifully decorated with special light features - a bit like Christmas! We ate, drank and shopped the same as the locals and people were very welcoming. The area was full of little churches you could pop into and one afternoon we heard singing and went in to listen to a group of nuns singing – it was very memorable. The sightseeing days were exceptional and the trulli really were special. The places we ate were full of local diners and delicious puglian cuisine. We went on to spend a week in Sorrento which provided a great contrast and chance to experience the variety of Italy. (Caryl and Chris, Oxon)

Shops and facilities: Altamura is famous for its bread, made since the time when the town supplied ancient Rome. There is a famous bakery where they make the Pane di Dlamura and Focaccia de Altamura (topped with tomatoes and herbs). Other local specialities include cheeses, fried artichokes, braised chicory, fava beans and fresh ravioli and an array of homemade sweets.

There are many other interesting small shops and cafés.


We recognise that everyone’s travel arrangements are unique, so all our holidays to Europe can be booked ‘with flight’ or ‘without flight’, giving you more flexibility and choice.


Travel by plane


‘With flight’ holidays – the hassle free option

Book your holiday ‘with flight’ from Gatwick to Bari airport. For flight times and prices please see the Dates & Prices tab.

If you choose this option we automatically include return transfers between the airport and the hotel. The coach transfer takes approx 1 hour to the Hotel San Nicola.

Our hotel is based within the historic walled old town of Altamura, as buses are unable to access this area you will be dropped off just outside in the Plazza Unita and enter the town on foot via the archway, Porta Bari. Here you will get your first glimpse of this fascinating town on the short walk to the hotel San Nicola.

British Airways plane




Driving to us

‘Without flight’ holidays – the flexible travel option

Alternatively, tailor your journey to suit you by booking your holiday ‘without flight’ allowing you the freedom to book your own flights from your local airport.

If you choose this option, transfers are not included in the price. However, below are some suggestions to help you reach your destination:

  • We can book you a seat on the HF Holidays’ transfer coach from Bari airport. This is timed to meet the HF Holidays’ flights* (provisional flight times can be found on the dates and prices tab or you can call us on 020 8732 1220 for more information). Cost per single journey is £19.50.
  • Why not let us book you a private taxi transfer at a cost of £90 per single taxi journey?

Transfers must be pre-booked.  Please call 020 8732 1220 for more details

* Please note that HF Holidays is not responsible for your onward travel if you fail to meet the transfer coach

 Coach heading to Glen Coe


Murray Ince

Murray has many years experience of fine art tuition including various painting experiences, lecturing for the local College on the Isle of Wight and demonstrates and runs workshops for art societies and groups covering many mediums and genres in fine art. Murray is a Professional Associate with the SAA (Society for All Artists) and is a featured artist and product ambassador with Winsor and Newton and has written a book on the subject of ‘Landscape Painting In ‘Artisan’ Water Mixable Oils’.

Murray has a passion for art history especially British landscape painting and says that the beauty of working for HF Holidays is that all of their houses are in stunning parts of the British countryside which has inspired British artists for centuries and is still inspiring some of the world’s best artists today. Murray is a direct descendent of both Joseph Murray Ince R.A. (1806 – 1859), whose works can be seen in many galleries including the Fitzwilliam and Victoria and Albert, and William Ince of the Ince and Mayhew furniture making partnership.

He created a first class learning environment with his enthusiasm and encouragement. He was well prepared in terms  of handouts, visual aids and other teaching material and very flexible in his approach. 


Dates & Prices

We're sorry, there are no dates available for this holiday at the moment. Please check out our other tours and breaks or call our team on 0345 470 8558 to be notified of new dates as soon as they become available.

Prices are per person


  • Double room for sole occupancy: £9 per night
  • Non-member associate fee: £10 per person

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