The Scala dei Turchi – or the ‘Turkish steps’ – is one of the most iconic tourist attractions in Sicily, popular with by sightseers from both Italy and abroad.
The site also features prominently in the ‘Inspector Montalbano’ book series by the late Italian author Andrea Camilleri, and an Italian TV series of the same name.
The white limestone cliffs, formed in a shape of a staircase, hence its name, were once a hiding place for Mediterranean pirates.
Yet the cliffs, put forward as a candidate for UNESCO World Heritage status, were plastered with red dye during the night of Friday, January 7.
An investigation has been launched by the Italian police after the white cliffs of Scala dei Turchi have been defaced by unknown vandals.
Law enforcement specialists managed to find out that the red dye was a red iron oxide powder mixed with water. The police are now looking through surveillance camera images from local shops to potentially identify people who might have bought the substance in question recently.
The incident provoked a wave of outrage from both politicians and locals. President of Sicily Nello Musumeci condemned “the perpetrators of this cowardly act,” who “shamefully defaced” the cliffs.
People on social media also spared no words as they slammed the perpetrators, whom they described as “ignorant troglodytes” who committed a “criminal” and “ignoble” act. Others said they were “furious” and called the incident a “huge shame.”
On the bright side, people also voiced their support for the local volunteers who began the clean-up. The damage appears not to be permanent, since the lower part of the cliffs had been cleaned by the sea waves.
Vandalism appears not to be the only problem at the site, since it is also affected by natural erosion and a huge number of tourists who do not shy away from stealing pieces of the rock.