Scala dei turchi
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Scala dei turchi
Among all stairways you have ever seen, this is definitely one of the most unusual. You have probably already realized that this is not a real ladder, but a spectacular stretch of coast that thanks to its peculiarity has become an icon of the Sicilian seaside tourism.
This white cliff is located along the stretch of the sea between Realmonte and Porto Empedocle (Agrigento) and its rock is made of a soft, limestone and blinding white marl. Nature, as a great artist, has worked this material over time, making it soft and sinuous, with the help of the sea and the salty breeze, creating terraces and smoothing every corner.
The sea, taking advantage of this sparkling white, will be showing off his blue.
The name Scale of the Turks seems to derive from the fact that in ancient times the ships of marauding Arabs and Turks found shelter in this bay.
Scala dei Turchi
Getting there: You can reach the Scala from the SS 115 and then the main road n.68 from both east crossing Realmonte and from west across Porto Empedocle.
Bus: from Porto Empedocle during summer you will find a city service to reach the Scala.
Parking: Pay and display parking is available, it is better go early in busy periods.
Equipped Beaches: Along the beach near the Scala there are two well-equipped facilities for dining and bathing.
We all want this beauty lasts forever. This is the reason why we should not remove or take away even the smallest fragment of marl. Beware of fines! Its power lies in the beauty it infuses us. The dust has no therapeutic or cosmetic virtues, so it is needless to spread it on the skin like a Pierrot.
At the entrance of the city you will find the sign: Welcome to Vigata. You are not in the wrong place, it refers to the fictional city described by Andrea Camilleri in his novels. The writer was born here, and in the main street, you can see a life-size bronze statue depicting his Inspector Montalbano. Walking in the animated via Roma and stopping in one of its elegant outdoor cafes, are not the only reasons for visiting Porto Empedocle, or rather Marina, as it’s named by local people because in ancient times it was the commercial port of Agrigento. Right down to the port, from where ferries leave for the Pelagie islands, the beautiful and massive tower of Charles V, an ancient fortification and then a prison, is waiting for you. Inside we find the Hall of Arms and a permanent exhibition of the sculptor Giuseppe Agnello, the author of the statue of Montalbano.
Not far from here, just half hour drive away, don’t miss Naro, a small medieval village just waiting to be discovered.
The Scala dei Turchi in Sicily
Italy is so full of natural wonders that it is hard to know where to begin. Even after more than a decade of living in Rome, I feel like I am barely beginning to scratch the surface of things to see. However, the white, undulating Scala dei Turchi has been at the top of my must-visit list ever since I first saw a picture of the rocky beach formation several years ago.
The chance to visit the Scala dei Turchi finally came when we were in Agrigento. After an early morning visit to the Valley of the Temples, we drove towards Realmonte and Porto Empedocle to see the Sicilian seaside attraction for ourselves.
The Scala dei Turchi would mean something along the lines of the Turkish staircase in English. The name comes from an old rumor that the rock formation provided a natural harbor for invading Arab forces centuries ago. (If you don’t know about the history of Arab influence in Sicily, I highly recommend the book Sicily: A short history from the Ancient Greeks to Casa Nostra by John Julius Norwich).
However, the name is secondary because the “stairs” themselves are absolutely beautiful. The Sicilian sun turns the limestone and marl into a blindingly white landmark. The stone, which has been weathered away by wind and surf into naturally occurring layers and shelves, is made to look even starker by the impossible blueness of the sea.
The combination of white rock and turquoise water is mesmerizing.
The Scala dei Turchi is a popular place for sunbathing because it is completely free to set up here for the day. Due to the color of the rock and the sea breeze, it stays relatively cool. However, you should be mindful of the sun because there is no shade to be found.
You probably want to be wearing shoes while you climb the rocks as well. There is a steep but easy to navigate natural ramp that leads up to a wide ledge. Most people stop along the way to lay out their towels. However, those who are more daring climb the smaller ledges for more private spots in the sun.
An advantage of staying lower down on the Scala dei Turchi is the ability to quickly and safely jump into the water. Just be mindful of slipping when the rocks get wet.
Services are all private but there are at least two beach clubs within a 10-minute walk where you can buy food and drink, rent a seat with an umbrella for the day, and use the toilets.
Going down was a bit scarier than going up, but it was all worth it for the views.
Getting to the Scala dei Turchi
The easiest way to reach the Scala dei Turchi is by car. There are some seasonal summer buses from nearby towns, but tracking down the schedules and routes can be complicated. Driving here was fairly straightforward, taking the SS 115 and then switching to local road 68, and following the signs.
Once you approach the beach where the Scala dei Turchi is located, you will see several private parking lots. These cost around €10 for the day and are gated and monitored. From there, carefully cross the busy road and chose any of the signposted paths down to the sand.
The descent is quite steep and the paths are maintained by private coffee bars and beach clubs to varying standards. For that reason, you want to have reliable shoes to get down to the beach. (In other words, I would not have been comfortable in mere flip flops given the steep grade and proximity to cliff edges).
Once you arrive on the sand, look to the right and you will be able to see the white rock of the natural staircase. This took us about 10 minutes to reach while walking along the beach.
Scala dei Turchi – Turkish Steps
The Scala dei Turchi in Realmonte (Agrigento province) is one of the most popular tourist destinations for both Italian and foreign visitors to the Valley of the Temples. The stunning beauty of these white marl cliffs has been forged by the waves and the wind in millions of years and has been the set for many famous films. This page contains all the information about the Scala dei Turchi.
The Scala dei Turchi has a wavy and irregular shape, with lines that are not harsh but sweet and rounded. The colour of the rock is pure white, a colour which, as we shall see, is due to the particular type of minerals present in the rock.
The Scala dei Turchi takes its name from the Saracen pirates, improperly called Turks by the local populations (as the Arab people were called by convention), who in the 1500s used to land on this particular rocky formation to plunder the coastal villages such as the modern day Realmonte.
This natural staircase, hence the name “scala“, sloping into the blue water, made it easy to land from the sea for pirate raids, in a place sheltered from the winds and probably also poorly controlled.
The white cliffs of the Scala dei Turchi are made of marl, an unconsolidated sedimentary rock consisting of clay and lime, with a characteristic pure white color. It is a geologically known site because it is possible to observe the cycles linked to the variation of the orbital parameters: in particular, it is possible to correlate the variations of insolation with cycles of an average of 21,000 years and the variations of eccentricity of the orbit with cycles of an average of 100,000 years.
The entire stretch of coast around the Scala dei Turchi is at hydrogeological risk and action is needed for the safety of people and the protection of the environment, so that its original appearance can be maintained and not altered by human activities.
Recently, many associations have denounced the seriousness of the situation, made increasingly complicated by poor water management and the impact of tourism. In this regard, there are already those who are in favour of a quota system to restrict the number of visitors.
The area is also sadly known for several examples of illegal building on which the authorities, including the Harbour Master’s Office and the Coast Guard, are doing an excellent job of control and remediation.
There have been cases of arbitrary building works carried out in violation of the permits obtained and even the construction of concrete ugly buildings, eyesore blots on the landscape, visible from the sea along the skyline of the hills sloping down towards the coast.
Thanks to the protest of environmental associations such as FAI and Legambiente some of these buildings have been demolished. In 2015, with the contribution of 20,00 euros from “I Luoghi del Cuore” and the action of the Municipality of Realmonte, the area where one of these buildings stood was redeveloped and transformed into a public “belvedere” or viewpoint.
The Scala dei Turchi is a candidate to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Following the opening of an investigation against unknown persons for non-compliance with the rules for the protection of artistic and cultural heritage, the Sicilian Regional Assembly unanimously decided to protect this beautiful natural coast by proposing its candidacy as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In August 2007, the municipality of Realmonte had already submitted an official request to UNESCO for this geological site, together with the nearby Roman villa of Durrueli, to be included in the World Heritage list.
Another fun fact is the question of the ownership of the Scala dei Turchi. It seems that this stretch of coast is private property even though the Sicilian Region and other bodies and associations have financed recovery and maintenance projects.
La Scala dei Turchi has been chosen by many directors Such as Giuseppe Tornatore as the natural setting for some scenes in their films. Among the most important ones are Malèna, Inspector Montalbano, At War with Love and Arritmìa.
Malèna. A 2000 film written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. The story is set in Castelcutò, an imaginary town in Sicily, during the Second World War. The thirteen-year-old Renato Amoroso is attracted by Malèna, played by Monica Bellucci, the most beautiful woman in the village, who lives alone because her husband Nino has just left for the front. Some scenes in the film were set at the Scala dei Turchi.
Inspector Montalbano. Italian television series based on the novels of Andrea Camilleri. Salvo Montalbano, police inspector in the imaginary Sicilian town of Vigata, in each episode deals with mafia crimes, murders and kidnappings. Thanks in particular to his profound intuition and marked investigative acumen, the anti-hero Montalbano always manages to sniff out the right lead.
It is possible to read a part of Andrea Camilleri‘s novel entitled “Montalbano’s First Case” which talks about the Scala dei Turchi by clicking here.
In War with Love. A 2016 Film directed and starring Pif. Set in New York in 1943. Arturo, in love with Flora, betrothed by his uncle to the son of a mafia boss, enlists in the U.S. army ready to land in Sicily, where in a remote country, lives her father, the only one able to stop the wedding. A simple story to tell the roots of organized crime in Sicily. Irresistible the scene with the helicopter that sees Arturo riding a donkey in the small town of Trinacria.
Arritmìa. A film by Gibrán Bazán in competition at the Cine Festival of Taormina 2019 by Gaetano Ravanà. There is a lot of Agrigento and in particular the Valley of the Temples, the Scala dei Turchi, the Tower of Monterosso, Syracuse, Ortigia and other important Sicilian locations in this film. First film collaboration that brings together Mexico and Sicily, two countries thousands of kilometers apart but culturally very close. Acting as a link Giovanni Buzzurro, a musician from Agrigento who lives in Mexico, who is the co-producer of the film with Marsash Cinema and author of the music with Fernando Meza.
A stone’s throw from this imposing natural monument you can take part in a full calendar of events; in fact, as every year, during the summer, the municipality of Realmonte draws up a daily program of theatrical performances, cabaret and concerts that take place in the Costabianca Theatre (some of them for a fee but others, the majority, totally free) to entertain the citizens and the many tourists.
How to get there
To reach the Scala dei Turchi from the archaeological site of the Valley of the Temples or from the city of Agrigento, follow the SS115 in the direction of Porto Empedocle, then via Nereo along the coast in the direction of Zona Lidi for 2.4 km up to the signs indicating car parks or belvedere.
Coming from Trapani, Erice or Selinunte drive along SS 115 until you get to Realmont. Then, follow the sign Scala dei Turchi.
There are several, well-signposted, paying car parks along the coast. It is strongly discouraged to park outside the parking spaces, especially in high season to avoid heavy fines or forced removal of vehicles.
Some of the parking spaces:
- Parking “Scala dei Turchi”
- Parcheggio “Scala dei Turchi”
- Parking Terrazza sulla Scala
- Free Municipal Parking “Scala dei Turchi”
In addition to the car parks mentioned above, there are other unnamed car parks. Following this link a map containing all parking areas.
Once you have parked your car, you can start your walk to the Turkish Steps. To reach your destination you will have to enter the restaurant “Lido Scala dei Turchi“, follow the path that has been provided by the owners of the restaurant and you will arrive at the beach. After a short walk of 5 minutes you will find yourself at the foot of the beautiful Scala dei Turchi between two fine sandy beaches.
Opening and Closing
At this moment the site is not closed to the public.
If you are in the vicinity of the Turkish Steps you may be interested in visiting:
Scala dei Turchi
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Scala dei Turchi is located on the coast of southern Sicily between Realmonte and Porto Empedocle, Agrigento.
The origin of the name comes from the many invasions of Turkish pirates and the “stairs” are formed by eroded Marl, clay and silt similar to calcite and limestone.
When visiting Scala dei Turchi, hike down one of a few steep sandy trails that lead to a beach full of locals and tourists covered in wet Marl, hoping to glow from the benefits it supposedly contains for the skin. Beach-goers that are not taking part in the natural mud bath can be seen jumping off of the cliffs and rocks, and into the deep, buoyant water of the warm Mediterranean. Local tourism authorities recommend climbing the steps barefoot.
Looking at one end, you will see the white steps, where Turkish and Barbary Coast pirates slipped in on several raids for plundering. Climb to the top for a beautiful sunset on the Mediterranean Sea.
In 2007, Realmonte municipality applied for the inclusion of the Scala dei Turchi on the UNESCO Heritage List. The status hasn’t been given to the area yet.
Update as of November 2020: The area is currently off-limits and under review for conservation efforts.
Villa Scala dei Turchi, House 6 persons in Realmonte
This beautiful holiday home with large outdoor areas is set only 1.5 km from the Scala dei Turchi, a white rock cliff with a crystal clear sea that has become famous for its spectacular colors. This stunning rocky cliff that’s world-famous for its spectacular colours is just 1.5 km from the property. You can also discover the exceptional UNESCO heritage archaeological site, Valley of the Temples, which is easily accessed just a short drive away or explore the nearby coast with Majata beach just 7 minutes by car. The house is perfect for enjoying an outdoor holiday immersed in enchanting scenery. The wood oven perfect for a nice pizza dinner after a day spent at the beach. The house is in an ideal position to reach both Porto Empedocle and Agrigento, among the many destinations for your excursions. From here you can discover the beauty of Sicily with a stay at this extremely well equipped, tranquil holiday home near the magical rocky coast of Realmonte. The perfect place for a family break or chilled escape, you’re ideally located along the island’s south coast. Uncover cultural, historical and natural sites on your doorstep and find out why this region of Sicily so remarkable during your stay at this enchanting villa. Ideal for a family getaway, guests can enjoy a pleasant and peaceful atmosphere throughout their stay at this beautiful holiday home. Catering for up to six people, this two-bedroom home is equipped with all the modern conveniences to make your stay as comfortable as possible. The master bedroom is fitted with a large ensuite bathroom and balcony overlooking the Sicilian coastline. Downstairs the second bedroom features a double bed and there is a sofa bed for an additional two guests if required. The property features three televisions, in the living room and each bedroom. Special care has been taken to ensure the property is child-friendly with a wide selection of toys and activities. An infant playpen and changing table are also available for the youngest family members. Enjoy cooking and dining al fresco in the spacious outdoor veranda while you prepare freshly made pizza in the authentic wood-fired oven. Fitted with armchairs, sofas and an 8-seater table, there is also a sink, gas hob and BBQ outside to fully embrace the beautiful weather Sicily is known for.
Availability, price and booking
Click on the start date of stay to display the list of available periods (weekends, short breaks, holidays in the week) as well as prices.