ROME — Saturday was a foul information, excellent news form 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 generally known as the Scala dei Turchi, or Staircase of the Turks, staining Realmonte’s principal vacationer draw with bloody purple blotches.
However by dusk, a lot of the harm had been undone because of the efforts of a crew of cultural heritage consultants, municipal employees and native residents who spent the day scrubbing the location with assistance from mops, brooms and water pumps.
“They’re an instance of the perfect of Sicily,” Ms. Lattuca mentioned of the individuals who helped with the cleanup. In 24 hours, she added, “this teamwork was capable of restore magnificence 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 identify.
Lengthy 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 website’s “astonishing magnificence.” The works have been later was a well-liked TV sequence.
They usually additionally achieved cinematic renown in Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Malena” and different movies.
Investigators in Agrigento, the realm’s largest metropolis, about 10 miles to the east of the Scala dei Turchi, are actually scouring movies taken from surveillance cameras on the roads resulting in the location on the night time between Friday and Saturday, when the vandalism happened.
Main Marco La Rovere, the commander of the army police department of Agrigento, which is investigating the case, mentioned his officers and native prosecutors had “an thought” of who might need vandalized the location, which had been defaced by graffiti prior to now. Now, they have been looking for proof to again up their hunch, he mentioned, declining to present particulars. “It’s an open investigation,” he mentioned.
Ms. Lattuca had no doubts that the vandalism “was the work of a madman.”
“There isn’t any different clarification for such an absurd act,” she mentioned.
Michele Benfari, Agrigento’s prime cultural heritage official, as a substitute mentioned 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.
“That could possibly be one interpretation,” he mentioned. Acts of vandalism had been uncommon in his space of Sicily, he mentioned.
Happily, Mr. Benfari famous, the iron oxide powder utilized by the vandals is comparatively innocent if it isn’t combined with different chemical substances. Particular vacuum cleaners have been used to take away the powder and the remaining traces have been scrubbed clear utilizing a easy cleaning soap on some patches.
“We have been fortunate,” he mentioned.
The Scala dei Turchi is at present closed to the general public on security grounds, in addition to over issues that the location was being broken by mass tourism. It is usually the topic of litigation to find out possession of components of the location between the area, the native authorities and a personal particular person.
Earlier than the pandemic, the location drew an estimated a million guests a yr, mentioned Giuseppe Taibi, the native representatives for the Fondo Ambiente Italiano, a corporation sometimes called the Nationwide Belief of Italy, which in previous years efficiently lobbied to demolish two unlawful buildings that had been constructed there.
It was a significant victory in an space of Sicily notorious for its dismal monitor file in illegal construction projects. In 2016, the Fondo Ambiente Italiano inaugurated a lookout deck overlooking the cliffs on the previous website of one of many demolished buildings.
“That despatched a robust sign,” mentioned Mr. Taibi. “It’s additionally a strategy to admire the location with out destroying it,” by permitting too many guests, he mentioned.
The Fondo has additionally promoted the Scala dei Turchi on its checklist of locations to safeguard in Italy. “It’s de facto a patrimony of humanity that have to be protected,” Mr. Taibi.
Locals clearly agreed.
“As quickly as we heard that Scala dei Turchi had been defaced, we rolled up our sleeves and set to work,” mentioned Claudio Lombardo, who heads the native department of the environmental affiliation Mareamico, which screens and conserves coastal areas.
“As it’s so snow-white, so pure,” the Scala dei Turchi “is the symbol of a clear and trustworthy Sicily, and it have to be preserved and guarded,” mentioned Ms. Lattuca, the mayor.