Lear reached Sicily in May 1847 with his friend John Joshua Proby (1780-1855), subsequently 2nd Earl of Carysfort, who had travelled to Italy to study painting. They went out early every morning before the sun rose, travelling all over the island to sketch and see as much as possible. He wrote that 'Proby makes a perfectly excellent companion - and we now go on with perfect comfort and smoothness; indeed I now like him so much that I do not at all like to think of his leaving me' (A. Davidson, Edward Lear: Landscape Painter and Nonsense Poet, 1812-1888, London, 1938, pp. 43-44).
The Castle at Brolo in the Province of Messina, Sicily, is now privately owned but was founded in the 11th Century and once belonged to the Princes of Lancia. Its location, at the pinacle of a rocky outcrop, provided the inhabitants with advantageous views of the coastline and of potential threats from the sea such as pirates.