ROME — Saturday was a foul information, excellent news type of day for Sabrina Lattuca, the mayor of Realmonte, a small city on the western coast of Sicily.
She awoke that morning to seek out that vandals had thrown iron oxide powder throughout the white cliffs referred to as the Scala dei Turchi, or Staircase of the Turks, staining Realmonte’s principal vacationer draw with bloody pink blotches.
But by dusk, a lot of the injury had been undone because of the efforts of a crew of cultural heritage consultants, municipal staff and native residents who spent the day scrubbing the positioning with the help of mops, brooms and water pumps.
“They are an example of the best of Sicily,” Ms. Lattuca stated of the individuals who helped with the cleanup. In 24 hours, she added, “this teamwork was able to restore beauty and splendor to the Scala dei Turchi.”
Molded by waves and wind over millenniums right into a grandiose pure staircase, legend has it that it was the favourite touchdown spot of pirates and invaders from faraway lands, just like the Turks, therefore its title.
Long a seaside draw for Sicilians, the marlstone cliffs achieved a wider fame because of a sequence of crime novels that includes Inspector Salvo Montalbano by the late Italian author Andrea Camilleri, who lauded the positioning’s “astonishing beauty.” The works had been later was a well-liked TV sequence.
And in addition they achieved cinematic renown in Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Malena” and different movies.
Investigators in Agrigento, the world’s largest metropolis, about 10 miles to the east of the Scala dei Turchi, at the moment are scouring movies taken from surveillance cameras on the roads resulting in the positioning on the evening between Friday and Saturday, when the vandalism happened.
Major Marco La Rovere, the commander of the army police department of Agrigento, which is investigating the case, stated his officers and native prosecutors had “an idea” of who might need vandalized the positioning, which had been defaced by graffiti in the previous. Now, they had been looking for proof to again up their hunch, he stated, declining to offer particulars. “It’s an open investigation,” he stated.
Ms. Lattuca had no doubts that the vandalism “was the work of a madman.”
“There is no other explanation for such an absurd act,” she stated.
Michele Benfari, Agrigento’s prime cultural heritage official, as an alternative stated the “gaping wound” left by the oxide powder might need been an announcement left by a “disillusioned artist” grappling with the tragedy of the pandemic.
He cited one artist who made headlines when he threw pink dye in Rome’s Trevi fountain in 2007 and dumped hundreds of colourful balls on the Spanish Steps a yr later.
“That could be one interpretation,” he stated. Acts of vandalism had been uncommon in his space of Sicily, he stated.
Fortunately, Mr. Benfari famous, the iron oxide powder utilized by the vandals is comparatively innocent if it isn’t combined with different chemical substances. Special vacuum cleaners had been used to take away the powder and the remaining traces had been scrubbed clear utilizing a easy cleaning soap on some patches.
“We were lucky,” he stated.
The Scala dei Turchi is presently closed to the general public on security grounds, in addition to over issues that the positioning was being broken by mass tourism. It can also be the topic of litigation to find out possession of components of the positioning between the area, the native authorities and a personal particular person.
Before the pandemic, the positioning drew an estimated a million guests a yr, stated Giuseppe Taibi, the native representatives for the Fondo Ambiente Italiano, an group sometimes called the National Trust of Italy, which in previous years efficiently lobbied to demolish two unlawful buildings that had been constructed there.
It was a serious victory in an space of Sicily notorious for its dismal monitor report in unlawful building tasks. In 2016, the Fondo Ambiente Italiano inaugurated a lookout deck overlooking the cliffs on the previous website of one of the demolished buildings.
“That sent a strong signal,” stated Mr. Taibi. “It’s also a way to admire the site without destroying it,” by permitting too many guests, he stated.
The Fondo has additionally promoted the Scala dei Turchi on its checklist of locations to safeguard in Italy. “It is de facto a patrimony of humanity that must be protected,” Mr. Taibi.
Locals clearly agreed.
“As soon as we heard that Scala dei Turchi had been defaced, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work,” stated Claudio Lombardo, who heads the native department of the environmental affiliation Mareamico, which screens and conserves coastal areas.
“As it is so snow-white, so pure,” the Scala dei Turchi “is the emblem of a clean and honest Sicily, and it must be preserved and protected,” stated Ms. Lattuca, the mayor.