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.
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, wherein a remote place, 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. He is the co-producer of the film with Marsash Cinema and the 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: