An investigation is underway after it was “shamefully smeared” with red powder from the famous white limestone Scala dei Turchi in Sicily.
The Scala dei Turchi, or Turkish Stairs, is one of the most visited tourist sites in Italy and features prominently in the books of Inspector Montalbano by the late author Andrea Camilleri.
The cliff, which is shaped like a huge staircase overlooking the Mediterranean from the Realmonte coast in southern Sicily, was vandalized Friday night.
Preliminary inspections established that the offenders smeared the cliff with red iron oxide powder, a substance that is fairly easy to remove, as proved by the fact that the marks on the bottom of the cliff were partially removed by sea. Realmonte volunteers began cleaning up the remaining marks on Saturday.
“The magnificent white Marl cliff in Scala dei Turchi, an attraction in the Agrigento region for visitors from all over the world, has been shamefully disfigured,” said Nilo Musumesi, President of Sicily. We condemn the perpetrators of this cowardly gesture. It is a violation not only of the origin of the rare beauty, but also the image of our island. I hope the judiciary will quickly identify those responsible.”
Luigi Patronaggio, the attorney general of Agrigento, launched an investigation and ordered tests of the materials used in order to track recent sales of the red powder in the area, and eventually the buyers. Police are also looking for evidence via video surveillance images.
The Scala dei Turchi was submitted as a UNESCO World Heritage candidate in 2019. However, the landmark was temporarily closed and seized by prosecutors in early 2020 after years of complaints about poor preservation.
The escarpment suffered from natural erosion but also from the huge number of tourists, some of whom stole bits of rock consisting of fine white limestone.
It also investigated the ownership of the Scala dei Turchi, which had been in dispute for years between the local authorities of Realmonte and Ferdinando Sciabbarà, who staked his claim to part of the coast based on documents dating back to the 19th century.
Sciabbarà was investigated for occupation of state-owned land and other offenses related to site preservation. He was ordered to pay a fine of 9,100 euros (£7,600) last summer and the land was returned to him. According to Italian newspaper reports, Sciabbarrà is ready to sell his share of the land to the local authority, on the condition that a nature reserve is created.