By Antonio Malara
I remember I was looking at one of those clickbait posts on Twitter, it was a retweet from a famous person, something like: "the ten most spectacular places in the world". The link was accompanied by a photo of an all white and jagged hill close to the sea. Curious, I opened the article to see where that place was, convinced that it was somewhere far away like Oceania. To my amazement, the hill called "Scala dei Turchi" was located in Sicily, more precisely in the province of Agrigento, therefore about four hours from where I live. To be honest, I felt a little ignorant for not knowing such an original place that was still close to my part. After studying the place and its location, I put it on the wishlist of things to see.
In May 2017 I managed to include the visit to the “Scala dei Turchi” in an articulated weekend that led me, together with a friend of mine, to attend the “Rocco Forte Open” golf tournament and then to visit “Valle dei Templi”. And it was right after visiting the archaeological site that we headed to the white hill. This post therefore begins where the one relating to “Valle dei Templi” ended.
We arrived in the early afternoon in the area near the hill and we parked in an unpaved parking lot for a few euros an hour. The only sign that we were near our destination was the sign that indicated something like "Scala dei Turchi parking". Otherwise the white hill was totally out of sight, I mean it remained under the place where we were. We looked out just behind a cliff, and beyond the beautiful landscape with the turquoise sea and the blue sky. From there we also managed to see a small glimpse of the site, immediately after, we set out to see and understand where was accessed. After walking for about a hundred meters, we took a ramp that snaked along the entire hill and reached the sea. After about ten minutes we arrived on the beach dominated mainly by golden sand. From there we saw the view on the white hill where we could even better understand where it originated. I have to say that I didn’t know why the hill became white, whether due to sediments or a particular natural conformation, but from below I could guess. It was as if the mountain had been ripped open on one side, and the central part was by its nature of that composition which gave it the color of very clear white. The rest of the hill was in fact rocky, as was the whole area around it. From a distance I could also see the long white ramp that at the top gave the impression of curving, from there it seemed very small. Together with my friend, I first wanted to immortalize “Scala dei Turchi” from that perspective, then we set out to go and climb it.
Arriving at the base, the perception of the place changed completely, the jagged part remained on the right and the climb began on the opposite side. There were many people around, mainly foreign tourists and the area was beginning to take on different connotations but not for them. In fact, starting to climb, we found ourselves totally immersed in the white and in the different compositions that the rock assumed, jagged or in some points totally smooth. Arriving at the beginning of the ramp, I had the impression of really being in an alien place. In fact, the entire climb, as well as being steep, was smooth but with horizontal lines along the entire length in height. That uphill glimpse also gave me the impression of a ramp towards the sky. A place like the one they represented in cartoons when they want to give you the vision of a place to meet God. Going up, the beauty showed itself with the jagged white hill on the right and the sea with those unique colors on the left. All this considering that the part facing the sea was without any kind of protection, fascinating but dangerous. In that moment I truly felt like Captain Kirk from Star Trek on one of his missions in a new world. Even today, I consider that particular climb the most singular and therefore alien place I have ever been in, and it was in Sicily, a few hours from my home. At that particular point we spent enough time to take pictures and above all, having perceived its uniqueness, I wanted to live those moments with intensity. Right on the top I looked for new photographic perspectives with voracity and then I climbed a bit in the jagged part that was singular but not like the part that overlooked the sea.
The hill that seemed to end in a curve actually continued in a path that went to the right. In fact, through a very narrow path overlooking the beach, we could access the "hidden" part, the one that could not be seen from the point near the sea where we arrived. We walked along the path that practically widened at different levels and skirted the whole white hill that was jagged in that part. This part was also very original; it seemed to be in a normal hill but totally white and devoid of vegetation, even if the conformation was more natural, the color emphasized its originality. We stayed in that area taking pictures and enjoying the view for about ten minutes, after which we went back. Even on the way back I continued to take photos feeling inside a place out of this world. Our visit lasted about an hour in which I totally isolated myself from reality.
It is unique how by visiting a place like "Scala dei Turchi", for just an hour, you can immerse yourself in a completely different dimension. The place surprised me because it gave me more than what I thought and what I had seen in the pictures. In fact, my curiosity was born from the photo of the small mountain seen from the sea. In the pic, the beauty was given by the white contrast of the mountain with the sea water and the rest of the surrounding rock. Live instead, that place has taken on the identity of a real place, with an incredible uniqueness and singularity. The “ramp to heaven”, along with Wadi Rum still remains for me the most alien place I have ever seen. Obviously, compared to the Jordanian desert, visiting “Scala dei Turchi” one must have the ability to detach oneself from the rest of the context which is not an easy thing to do. I succeeded and with this memory I hope to return and try the "first time effect" again.
Pictures: Antonio Malara
Camera: Nikon D800