For some obscure reason lost in decades of bureaucratic paperwork, the upper part of the celebrated Scala Dei Turchi, the dazzling white cliff that rises above the sea along the southern coast of Sicily, belongs to a Sicilian man, Ferdinando Sciabarrà. The 73-year-old former employee of the Chamber of Commerce of Agrigento, now retired, has recently made headlines as he, provokingly, invited billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, owner of Tesla, Space X and Twitter, to buy Scala Dei Turchi from him.
A provocation meant to spotlight the need to safeguard and protect a natural wonder that is at risk of collapse due to the flaking marl rock. The site is known to be subject to landslides, hence the need to secure the area and manage the hundreds of tourists who step on the fragile rock come high season.
Accused of illegally occupying and not preventing damage to the site, Sciabarrà went through a lengthy legal battle, which eventually recognized him as the legitimate owner of the upper part of Scala Dei Turchi. However, Sciabarrà appears to no longer be interested in a property that has been giving him a lot of headaches.
According to Sciabarrà and his lawyer, despite meeting several times with the regional administration and the municipality of Realmonte, the town where Scala dei Turchi is located, to discuss how to best manage the site, public officials seem to be completely uninterested in finding a solution.
Sciabarrà said he even tried to donate his portion of Scala dei Turchi to the local administration, and, when that failed, to entrust it to an environmental association, but that operation didn’t go through either.
As a consequence, Sciabarrà now wants to sell it and appealed to Musk. “If Sicilian institutions are inept, then someone like Musk is welcome,” Sciabarrà said, “as long as he keeps Scala Dei Turchi free as we’ve always done and doesn’t build anything on it.”
Scala dei Turchi (‘Stair of the Turks’) regularly features among Italy’s most beautiful beaches.
While the name has come to also indicate the beach below, Scala dei Turchi proper is a rocky white wall that rises above the sea along the coast of Realmonte, near Porto Empedocle, in the province of Agrigento, Sicily.
Over time, Scala dei Turchi has become a tourist attraction both for the uniqueness of the white cliff and its peculiar shape, and also as a result of the popularity acquired thanks to the Inspector Montalbano novels by Andrea Camilleri, set in the area.
The so-called ‘Scala’ (stair) is made up of marl, a sedimentary rock; it has a wavy and irregular shape, with rolling, rounded lines. The name originates not only from its appearance, which reminds of steps, but also from past piracy raids by the Saracens, who found shelter in this area protected by winds and therefore safer for landing.