The area of Punta Bianca - Monte Grande, known to the most for its pristine beaches and its cobalt blue sea, is located in the middle of a natural area of incomparable beauty.
The typical Mediterranean vegetation is particularly fascinating, with ferulas, mint, wild salvias, dwarf palms and lentiscus. The bird life that inhabits it and the migratory birds that are stopping here do not fail to fascinate birdwatchers.
An inviting attraction for archaeology buffs is the prehistoric sanctuary of the ancient Bronze Age, an extraordinary evidence of the sulphur trade in the Mycenaean era. There are also traces and artifacts related to the sulfur mining activity ( which went on until the last decades of the XIX century) and to the war period (bunkers of World War II).
The hill of white marl and the abandoned and derelict customs house below it are the most iconic and distinctive landscape elements.
From a distance Punta Bianca looks like a large spur of limestone rock in the shape of the prow of a ship that juts out and slopes towards the African sea, creating cliffs, gullies, valleys, coves, and sandy, marl or cobbled beaches.
From the top of Monte Grande you can enjoy a superb view. The eye spans on one side to San Leone, Agrigento, Punta Grande and Capo Rossello. On the other to the Castle of Montechiaro, Palma and the Punta Ciotta.
The Punta Bianca – Monte Grande promontory lies in the central area of the southern coast of Sicily and is the eastern limit of the Gulf of Agrigento, which has Punta Grande as its western limit. It is just a few kilometres away from the Valley of the Temples and marks the boundary between the territory of the town of Agrigento and that of Palma di Montechiaro.
The morphology of this coastline was shaped about 5-6 million years ago, in the Messinian period, when a series of concurrent processes (earthquakes and glaciation) resulted in the closure of the connection with the Atlantic Ocean.
The Messinian salinity crisis reduced the Mediterranean to a few hypersaline water basins and lasted about 250,000 years. Declining ocean levels and the cyclical phases of dessication and inundation that followed caused the erosion of the seabed. Then, about 5.4 million years ago, at the beginning of the Pliocene, the sill corresponding to today’s Strait of Gibraltar opened again permanently, leading to the filling of the Mediterranean Sea basin.
Subsequently, some of these Messinian deposits were uplifted by tectonic thrusts during more recent orogenic phases and they constitute the deposits of the Gypsum-Sulphur Formation.
The main morphological texture is represented by the present-day marine abrasion platform incised on the Trubi outcrop, a rock consisting mainly of calcareous shells of planktonic microfossils (globigerine) and macrofossils typical of deep sea, testifying the reopening of the Mediterranean basin with the Atlantic waters.
The typical coloration of this lithotype, gives the name to the locality. Along the outcrop (which corresponds to a syncline fold) the chromatic grey-white-beige-white alternation is clearly visible, linked to the variations in the calcium carbonate content of the marls that occurred during the deposition of the Trubi due to climatic variations.
The calcareous marls and white marly limestones show concoid fracturing; secondarily there are laminated gypsums and selenitic gypsums with large twinned crystals from the Messinian. Farther to the NE is a medium-sized outcrop of vacuolar brecciated limestones and parallel-laminated grayish-white limestones.
Nature Reserve of Punta Bianca and Monte Grande
Despite what one reads on the web and in some publications, the Nature Reserve of Punta Bianca and Monte Grande has not yet been officially instituted.
Way back in 2001 (decree 13 April 2001), the Regional Department of Cultural Heritage and Education officially declared the coastal territory between the mouth of the Vallone di Sumera and the Castello di Montechiaro to be of considerable public interest, due to its extraordinary archaeological, ethno-anthropological and natural features.
The coastal landscape, which faces the African Sea, is of exceptional beauty, still unspoilt and little affected by urbanisation and holiday homes, and is notable for its numerous small, narrow beaches bordered by escarpments and cliffs. From Monte Grande the view extends westwards as far as the promontory of Capo Rossello, including the magnificent Valley of the Temples and the vista of the gentle hills of central southern Sicily. From the sea it is possible to perceive, even in the distance, Punta Bianca, as a natural lighthouse. The contrast between the blue of the limpid sea and the white of the rocks stretching out towards it, almost shaped by the carving action of nature, is a remarkable aesthetic and perceptive sign.
The institution of the Nature Reserve was probably hindered by the presence of a military firing range in the Drasy district. For years, military exercises and launches have been damaging the fragile cliff, despite the protests of numerous citizens and environmental associations such as Mareamico.
In fact, none of the succeeding Sicilian regional governments has signed the decree instituting the nature reserve. This situation of impasse has been unblocked recently by … Belen!!! Yes, her! Belen Rodriguez!
Belen at Punta Bianca
The famous model came to Punta Bianca to do a photo shoot and was enchanted by the beauty of the location. In one of her posts on Instagram she wrote:
“It is a wonderful and unique place, which would deserve a better appreciation, in a tourist and environmental perspective. In this area there has been for 63 years a military firing range, and its drills are destroying the places, destroying the access roads and blocking the tourist enjoyment, while the local environmental associations have been waiting for 25 years for it to be recognized as a nature reserve. And so I would like to end with an appeal to President Musumeci, to institute the long-awaited nature reserve”.
The partly dilapidated barracks of the Guardia di Finanza or Customs House were used until the beginning of the 20th century. It is not uncommon to find these structures, now largely abandoned, along the Sicilian coast in the loneliest places, far from ports and towns. They were intended to house the financiers who had the task of combating smugglers who, otherwise, would have been able to use, undisturbed, these convenient landing places for their trafficking. On the outside, near the wall, one can still read the heraldic motto of the Guardia di Finanza Corps:
“Nec Recisa Recedit, 1951″.
This ancient Latin phrase was used by the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio in 1920 at a banquet that followed the granting of the “medal of Ronchi” to the pennant of the Fiuman financiers. In the dedication of one of his photos to an officer, the “commander” wrote:
“To the Fiamme Gialle, honor of Fiume, Nec Recisa Recedit, Fiume d’Italia, 1920 – Gabriele D’Annunzio”.
D’Annunzio’s motto became official in 1933. It still accompanies the financiers today and is included in the heraldic coat of arms of the Guardia Di Finanza.
Today the customs officers’ house is partially in ruins and is in need of some consolidation work. Rather than recalling the disciplined life of the soldiers who resided here, the structure emanates a mysterious charm and seems to conjure up the verses of Eugenio Montale:
You don’t recall the house of the customs men high on the bluff that drops sheer to the reef: it’s been waiting, deserted, since the evening your thoughts swarmed in and hovered, nervously. Sou’westers have lashed the old walls for years and your laugh’s not carefree anymore: the compass needle staggers crazily and the dice no longer tell the score. You don’t remember: other times assail your memory; a thread gets wound.
The wreck of Punta Bianca and the Titanic
About 5 miles from Punta Bianca, at a depth of about 19 metres, lies the wreck of the Almerian, a steamer belonging to the Leyland Line company. The ship, which was carrying a cargo of sulphur bound for Liverpool, was sunk on 19 October 1918 by the German submarine U-Boat 73. As so often during the First World War, the submarine decided to mine the ship instead of torpedoing it. This was done both to spare the lives of enemy sailors and not to waste the precious torpedoes to be used to sink warships. It seems, however, that the submarine, a few days later, sunk itself to avoid falling into the hands of the British Navy.
The Almerian was the last ship to cross the Titanic’s path on 14 April 1912, greeting it with its sirens as it headed towards its tragic fate
Punta Bianca used as a filming location
Punta Bianca is one of the locations chosen by Gianna Nannini for the videoclip of “Lontano dagli occhi”. In the video there are also some other locations in the Agrigento area: the Valley of the Temples, the Scala dei Turchi and Palazzo Adamo in Canicattì.
How to get there
To get to Punta Bianca and Monte Grande from the archaeological site of the Valley of the Temples, from the city of Agrigento, from Trapani, Catania and Palermo follow the SS115 in the direction of Villaggio Mosè. Turn right at the traffic lights and drive into Viale Cannatello. At the first traffic circle, turn left and follow the signs to Zingarello and Punta Bianca. Before reaching the SS115, on the right, a poorly visible sign points to the dirt road in bad condition that leads to the beach. It is advisable to park at the drinking trough and continue on foot. You’ll get there in about 15 minutes.
From Ragusa follow the SS115 until the intersection for San Leone and then, by the end of the big curve, on the left, look out for the sign Punta Bianca and take the dirt road.
It is advisable to park along the dirt road to Punta Bianca near the drinking trough. Then walk for about 15 minutes while enjoying the incomparable view.
The site is accessible at all times until the Nature Reserve is defined.
The coast of Punta Bianca, Zingarello and Cala Vicinzina is a popular destination for excursions by dinghy, boat and motorboat. . Here are the best offers.
The area of Monte Grande, Cala Vicinzina and Marina di Palma is very well suited for outdoor activities, hiking, trekking and walking. Here are the best guided hiking trails.