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Famed White Cliffs of Sicily Are Defaced in an Act of Vandalism

ROME — Saturday was a nasty 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 often 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 injury had been undone because of the efforts of a crew of cultural heritage specialists, municipal staff and native residents who spent the day scrubbing the positioning with assistance from mops, brooms and water pumps.

“They’re an instance of the perfect of Sicily,” Ms. Lattuca stated 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 collection of crime novels that includes Inspector Salvo Montalbano by the late Italian author Andrea Camilleri, who lauded the web site’s “astonishing magnificence.” The works have been later become a well-liked TV collection.

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, at the moment are scouring movies taken from surveillance cameras on the roads resulting in the positioning on the night time between Friday and Saturday, when the vandalism occurred.

Main 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 concept” of who might need vandalized the positioning, which had been defaced by graffiti up to now. Now, they have been looking for proof to again up their hunch, he stated, declining to provide particulars. “It’s an open investigation,” he stated.

Ms. Lattuca had no doubts that the vandalism “was the work of a madman.”

“There isn’t a different clarification for such an absurd act,” she stated.

Michele Benfari, Agrigento’s high cultural heritage official, as a substitute 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 red dye in Rome’s Trevi fountain in 2007 and dumped thousands of colorful balls on the Spanish Steps a 12 months later.

“That could possibly be one interpretation,” he stated. Acts of vandalism had been uncommon in his space of Sicily, he stated.

Luckily, 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 stated.

The Scala dei Turchi is presently closed to the general public on security grounds, in addition to over considerations that the positioning was being broken by mass tourism. Additionally it is the topic of litigation to find out possession of components of the positioning between the area, the native authorities and a non-public particular person.

Earlier than the pandemic, the positioning drew an estimated a million guests a 12 months, stated Giuseppe Taibi, the native representatives for the Fondo Ambiente Italiano, a company also known as the Nationwide Belief of Italy, which in previous years efficiently lobbied to demolish two unlawful constructions that had been constructed there.

It was a serious victory in an space of Sicily notorious for its dismal observe report in illegal construction projects. In 2016, the Fondo Ambiente Italiano inaugurated a lookout deck overlooking the cliffs on the previous web site of one of many demolished buildings.

“That despatched a robust sign,” stated Mr. Taibi. “It’s additionally a technique to admire the positioning with out destroying it,” by permitting too many guests, he stated.

The Fondo has additionally promoted the Scala dei Turchi on its listing of locations to safeguard in Italy. “It’s de facto a patrimony of humanity that should 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,” stated Claudio Lombardo, who heads the native department of the environmental affiliation Mareamico, which displays 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 should be preserved and guarded,” stated Ms. Lattuca, the mayor.

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