The history of Sicily passes through sport. The legendary Targa Florio came about in Paris from an idea of Vincenzo Florio from Palermo. In 1883 ‘u Cavaleruzzu’ (as he was called) had a sheet of paper in his hands and, during a conversation with the editor of the French magazine ‘L’ Auto’, his friend Henri Desgrange, he drew the circuit. Let’s start the race…with Sicilian Secrets.
Continuate la mia opera perché l’ho creata per sfidare il tempo.
– Vincenzo Florio
Cerda, Caltavuturo, Petralia, Geraci, Castelbuono, Isnello, Collesano and Campofelice, the legend of the Targa Florio begins here. Not far from Palermo, this famous race stretched over 147 kilometers. It was disputed 61 times from 1906 to 1977, seeing the most tortuous Sicilian roads, those between the Madonie, as centerpiece: this circuit was not easy, being able to complete it was for real heroes, and for the car manufacturers it represented an opportunity to show off their creations and promote them.
The golden years of the Targa Florio were 1955 and then those from 1958 to 1973 when the race became part of the International or World Championships for Sports or Gran Turismo cars. In that period, famous names of both manufacturers and pilots made their debut in Sicily. The decline of this event occurred after 1973 after many serious accidents. The Madonite circuit was not suitable anymore for the new cars, that have now become more and more powerful. Thus, the Targa Florio was excluded from the international circuits.
Names and fate of the Targa Florio
Among the popular names who competed in Sicily on the Targa Florio circuit were Alberto Ascari, Enzo Ferrari, Tazio Nuvolari and many others. The race was a triumph for Vincenzo Florio and for Sicily, whose success soon spread throughout Europe. From 1978 the competition was changed into a rally that continued to have the same name, the numbering was also maintained, so much so that in 2016 the 100th Targa Florio Rally was raced and celebrated. Today, motoring enthusiasts can go to the island and visit the Targa Florio Museum in Collesano, in the province of Palermo. You can get lost among photographs, trophies, historic cars, books, driver suits and many other memorabilia. And if that’s not enough, there are also some private collections transformed into museums in Termini Imerese, Cerda and Campofelice di Roccella.
The women of the Targa Florio
The Targa Florio can even boast women among the participants… something truly surprising if you think we are at the beginning of the twentieth century. The first who appeared during the races as a mechanic was Madame le Blon, who in 1906 joined her husband Hubert. It was only in the 1920s that Maria Antonietta Avanzo, Margò Einsiedel and Elisabeth Junek made their debut as pilots, and then – after the war – Ada Pace, Isabella Taruffi, Elisa Angelini Rota, Susanna Baumann, Piera Bertoletti, Eloisa Segafredo, Anna Vasaturo , Anna Maria Peduzzi and Maria Teresa de Filippis. Many other women took parti in the 70s but the only one who achieved some important results was Ada Pace. The Turin-born lady competed from 1957 to 1963 with Alfa Romeo, Osca and Abarth-Simca, and in 1960 she won in her own category (1100 Sport) but also ranked 11th in the overall placings.