On the Cover: Scala dei Turchi

The Scala dei Turchi, Stair of the Turks, is a wonderful cliff located in one of the most spectacular and evocative corners overlooking the Strait of Sicily. It is a wall of calcareous marl, an old term used to refer to an earthy mixture of fine-grained minerals. The rocky cliff is blinding white in color and composed of limestone and clay. It rises above sea level along the coast between Realmonte and Porto Empedocle, in the province of Agrigento in southern Sicily.

Created over the centuries through the continuous movement of water and wind, it slowly took the shape of an enormous staircase thus dubbed the Stair of Turks. According to ancient legends, the natural formation was once used by Saracen and Barbary pirates in the 15th century who, during their invasions, would climb along the stairs and plunder nearby villages of all their riches, including their women.

This breathtaking landscape was fairly untouched and visited only by a few local bathers until just a few years ago. It has now become a popular attraction thanks to its appearance in a famous TV series, films, and commercials. Since then, this enchanted place has attracted many onlookers and today is the destination of many tourists, who used to lie down along the very white natural beds to sunbathe and swim in the crystal-clear waters. It has also become known as the perfect selfie spot, and in 2018 it garnered over 108,200 hashtags on Instagram making it one of the most popular summer destinations for social users in that year. However, in recent years, a new rule has been implemented stating visitors are not allowed to walk on the stairs due to a conservation effort.

According to travelers, the easiest way to get to Scala dei Turchi is by car. Many visitors will want to visit the Scala dei Turchi during their time in Agrigento visiting the Valley of the Temples (recognized as Sicily’s most remarkable site). Once you arrive at the Scala dei Turchi, it is a steep walk down the cliffside to the beach. It is not a difficult descent and there is a choice between steps and a sloping path. Some find the best route is located directly across the road from the paid parking lot where visitors pass through two bars with great views of the sea. Perfect for a quick drink!

The Stair of the Turks was added for UNESCO World Heritage status consideration in 2007 but had already suffered from years of overuse. After repeated warnings, the stairs were seized by Italian prosecutors in 2020 to protect the beautiful rocks from overuse and damage. Although it is not possible to walk on the stairs it is possible to walk along the beach to see them. There is also a wonderful viewpoint from the road above the stairs themselves.

Although visitors may no longer walk along the stairs themselves, the beach that runs to the base of the stairs is a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike. Visiting the cliffs at high tide is recommended for a more impressive view. The Scala dei Turchi is a must-see Sicilian destination.

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