The colors of Sicily


How could I forget the places of my infancy, where I played as child, there I have returned occasionally, with a pretext, to look for that air and that never forgotten harmony of my youth, also if  each trace has disappeared, some buildings have stayed, like the one where I was born, but the kindness of the people that I have known there doesn't exist more.
The memory that I have of the Targa until I was a child is inside of me and it won't ever disappear. I lived in Libertà street at the civic number 34, and the run departed from Politeama Plaza to Midnight o'clock, crossing the Libertà street in direction of the "Statue," (as we the Palermitans call the square), my father great lover of the cars made me sleep in the afternoon so that I could stay awake in the night to see the run, its protagonists, the auto, I still remember the sharp smell of the burnt gasoline that got out of the pipes of unloaded, the happy crowd that already crowded from the first afternoon along the run, the homages of the auto houses, flags- models of the auto- photo of the protagonists and other still (it was about to begin the era of the gadgets), in short the atmosphere there reigned, was like a chermesse and a big party.
From that places, a little bit snob and without money problems, from the mix of Sicilian pride and British extravagance « In each Sicilian- a historian of the Island wrote- there hide a pinch of English », Vincenzo Florio made his Targa's competition, a challenge between glorious Houses and famous pilots. The Florio Plate also was a match for less known pilots, but not for this reason less heroic, that to their expenses and  with their immense sacrifices faced, year after year, the thousand curves of the Madonie. They arrived from the more remote angles of Sicily, from the other regions of Italy and from the foreign countries, England, France and Germany in first line.
What would have been, without them, unknown and forgotten pioneers, the modern auto racing?

Vincenzo Florio was born at Palermo from a rich family March the third of 1883. His grandfather, (Vincenzo Florio - Bagnara  Calabra 1799 - Palermo 1868;  Industrial, founder at Palermo of an importing house of spices, of a factory of wines (Marsala), and in the 1845 of a society of navigation.
The passion that he grows for the cars is great. He participates to any competition getting some good placings, but in him much more than the racing abilities is worth those organizational.
His masterpiece is the Targa Florio , that he made born in the 1906, in his native earth, on the famous Circuit of the Madonie.
It was the epoch of the pioneers of the auto racing and pilots and the runs were to the eyes of the people something of  mysterious between legend and reality.
 It was the first auto Italian competition and one of the first in absolute to the world.
The first demonstration concerned something similar to the « auto week » of Brescia. September, 10 1905 a race was held won by Raggio  on Itala to which Vincenzo Florio participated arriving at the ninth place on a Mercedes, in that occasion, Vincenzo Florio put a cup as prize. The following year, toward the half of October, overcoming big difficulty, between which the lack of roads, the competition had transferred in Sicily with 2000 liras of prizes and a plate of gold, the « Florio plate » to be assigned to the winner.
To deal with of his team he engaged Felice Nazzaro, the strongest runner of his time, who already worked at Fiat.
The initiative had such a success that in the cities founds were picked up a  year before for the following edition.
The selected circuit for the 1st edition, along 148 kilometres to be repeated 3 times, extended from Termini Imerese to Cerda, crossing the inhabited area of Caltavuturo, Petralia, Petralia Soprano, Geraci, Castelbuono, Cefalù, Termini Imerese. The run seemed made to exalt the ability of the pilots and the qualities of the automobiles. The circuit of the Madonie resulted one of the more arduous layouts and tormented that the auto racing competition knew.
Memorable in this editions, the challenges between the big car firms: Fiat, Mercedes, Maserati, Bugatti, Ferrari, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Peugeot and other still, also if less famous, but not for this reason less important.
The competition was a continuous latch, (beside the track of the race there were the trunks of the big trees that were painted of white until a height of 2 meters)that passed between the houses and the people of the interested towns, it carried the competitors from the level of the sea to an altitude of 636 meters on the Madonie and therefore again toward the sea with a rectilinear solo at disposition between Buonfornello and Campofelice, where the pilots could exploit the best  power of their auto. Exciting and fought up to the last turn, the competition, was held according to the system of the separate departures.
In the years that followed, the format changed: it went from 145 kilometres at its first running to around 1000 when the Targa was combined with the Tour of Sicily, before ending up as 72  kilometres on the Small Madonie Circuit, which the drivers tackled 10 to 14 times, this format being maintained to the end.


After having dominated the heroic period of the auto racing of the Twenties and Thirties, the competition came suspended due to the war, to be then reprise in 1948 as important international competition. In 1955 the Targa Florio entered the calendar of the Brands Sport Championship and in the World Brands, going to place side by side, the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Daytona and the 1000 Km of Monza, Buenos Aires and Nurburgring, confirming as one of the more popular competitions in the world of the auto-racing. In 1978 the run was abolished for safety reasons and transformed from speed competition in speed to a rally race.

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This page was completed and sent to the Web on: October 03 1999
and was made by: Mario Grifasi
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Logo Targa - (immagine riservata)
M. Grifasi  16/10/99
Angelo Grifasi did the translation
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