Montalbano’s First Case - Montalbano’s First Case

Part of Andrea Camilleri's novel "Montalbano's First Case" which talks about the Scala dei Turchi.

“What flavor?”


He went into the back room. Two men were playing a round, with a couple of friends looking on. Montalbano sat down at a table and began to eat his cassata slowly, savoring each spoonful. All of a sudden an argument broke out between the two players. Their friends intervened.

“Let’s ask this gentleman to settle the matter,” said one of them. Another turned to Montalbano and asked: “Do you know how to play billiards?” “No,” said Montalbano, embarrassed.

They looked at him disdainfully and resumed their argument.

Montalbano finished his ice cream, paid at the cash register, went out, got in his car, which he’d parked nearby, and headed off to the Scala dei Turchi.

Following the waiter ‘s directions, he turned lef t at a certain point, went a short distance downhill along a paved road, and then stopped. The road ended there. One had to walk on sand the rest of the way . He removed his shoes and socks, put them in the car, locked the car, rolled up the bottoms of his trousers, and walked to the beach. The water was cool but not cold. Just past the promontory, the Scala dei Turchi suddenly appeared.

In his memory it had seemed much more imposing. When you’re small everything seems larger than lif e. But even cut down to size, it retained its astonishing beauty. The silhouette of the marlstone hill’s crest stood jagged against the crisp blue of the cloudless sky , crowned by hedges intensely green. Towards the bottom, the point formed by the last few shelves of land descending into the turquoise sea sparkled in the sunlight and took on nuances of color tending to bright pink. The part of the hill that stood farther back lay instead entirely on yellow sand.

Montalbano felt so dazzled by the bright colors, which practically screamed at him, that he had to close his eyes and cover his ears with his hands for a moment. He was still about a hundred yards from the base of the hill, but he chose to admire it from a distance. He was afraid he might end up inside the unreality of a painting, a picture, afraid he might himself become a spot​surely jarring​ of color.

He sat down on the dry sand, spellbound. And he remained there, smoking one cigarette after another, mesmerized by the chromatic variations in the glow of the sun on the lower steps of the Scala dei Turchi as it slowly set. Once it had set, he got up and decided to drive back to Mascalippa after dark. He figured it was worth his while to have another meal at the Trattoria San Calogero. Walking slowly back to his car, he turned around every sooften to look. He really didn’t want to leave.

He drove back to Vigata at practically ten miles an hour, bombarded with insults and obscenities by other drivers who had to pass him on the rather narrow road. But he didn ‘t react. He was in the sort of state of mind where, even if someone were to cuf f him on the head, he would turn the other cheek. At the gates of town he stopped at a tobacco shop and stocked up on cigarettes for the j ourney home.

Then he went to a service station to fill up the tank and checked the tires and oil. He glanced at his watch. He had another half hour to waste. Parking the car, he walked back to the port. Now there was a large ferryboat docked at the wharf. A line of cars and trucks were waiting to go aboard.