In the 1500s, a group of Saracen pirates, often erroneously referred to as ‘Turks,’ scaled an enormous cliff in Sicily, marked by natural stone steps, to plunder a town. This cliff, after witnessing similar invasions by various pirate groups over centuries, became known as Scala dei Turchi, or the Turkish Steps.
Surrounding the Turkish Steps, like many popular attractions in Italy, are signs that often confuse visitors. Due to the often confusing and seemingly contradictory signage, it is advisable for visitors to rely on natural landmarks for navigation. From a lookout point, one can enjoy a panoramic view of the white stone steps, a sandy beach, and the striking azure waters below. Additionally, descending a lengthy flight of stairs to the beach allows one to stand in the surf and look up at the majestic Turkish Steps.
In the past, sunbathers, hikers, and beachgoers enjoyed unrestricted access to the Turkish Steps. However, recent preservation efforts have limited access to certain areas of the marl cliffs. Visitors now can enjoy taking selfies above or below the Steps and swim in the water at its base.
The Turkish Steps are near the Valley of the Temples, a remarkable archeological site in Italy. This valley houses numerous Doric temples from the ancient Greek colony of Akragas. A day’s itinerary could include exploring these historical marvels in the morning, savoring a delicious lunch at a local eatery, and then spending the afternoon immersed in the beauty of the Turkish Steps. To escape the intense summer heat of Sicily, a dip in the sea during the hottest part of the day comes highly recommended.
While scaling the Turkish Steps as the pirates once did is no longer possible, their grandeur remains a must-see. The bird’s-eye view of the Steps is among Italy’s most spectacular sights. Enjoying gelato on the beach, wading into the water in the shadow of the Turkish Steps, is an unforgettable experience.