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Police identify two suspects of vandalism Scala dei Turchi

Italian police have identified two men suspected of destroying the famous white limestone Scala dei Turchi (Stair of the Turks) cliff in Sicily, which features prominently in the Inspector Montalbano books by the late author Andrea Camilleri.

The cliff, in the shape of a huge staircase jutting into the Mediterranean Sea from the coast of Realmonte, was daubed with red iron oxide powder Friday, leaving red stains across the limestone.

The governor of Sicily condemned the vandalism as a “cowardly gesture” against not only “an asset of rare beauty, but also the image of our island”.

Police said on Wednesday that two men from Favara, a short distance from the site, were identified and reported to authorities for “damage to a protected natural property”.

Agrigento’s prosecutor’s office, which led the investigation, said that after a series of searches in neighboring villages, the two men had been identified on surveillance cameras.

The footage shows two men exiting a Ford truck and pulling two large bags of red powder.

Investigators found traces of red powder and gloves stained with the same substance in a shed near the home of one of the men.

One of the alleged perpetrators had previously been convicted of vandalizing the Milan Metro and the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, as well as the white cliff of Punta Bianca near the Scala dei Turchi.

The motive for the vandalism is still unclear, but prosecutors believe the gesture represents some sort of “challenge to authority”.

Volunteers clean the damaged Scala dei Turchi after it was stained with a mixture of water and red plaster. Photo: Soprintendenza Ai Beni Culturali Handout/EPA

A group of volunteers from the area spent the weekend scrubbing the marks off the cliff.

The Scala dei Turchi was submitted in 2019 as a candidate for UNESCO World Heritage status. However, the monument was temporarily closed in early 2020 and seized by prosecutors after years of complaints about its poor preservation.

Every year, the gigantic white limestone cliff, which falls steeply over the sea, attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world. The name comes from ancient raids on the coast by pirates, probably Saracens.