Among myths and legends, an international scene, and a three-digit milestone.
Targa Florio is one of the oldest and most famous Italian motor racing competitions in the world. The brainchild of Vincenzo Florio, who also financed and organised it, the competition was held sixty-one times consecutively, from 1906-1977. It didn’t even take a break during the two world wars!
The Madonie Mountains, with their narrow and winding path roads, were the host of the much-loved motor racing show. The race started from the Temple of Himera in Buonfornello, also known as the Temple of Victory: a good omen for all the drivers. The route then took in the real country roads, with an unpaved dirt surface, going through Cerda, Caltavuturo, Castellana, Petralia Sottana and Soprana, Geraci, Castelbuono, Isnello, Collesano and Campofelice, encompassing about 150 kilometres of normally impassable roads. The biggest obstacle for these drivers was not the difficult roads, however, but the presence of locals riding on mules who would continue to trot along without consideration for the race. It was almost an impossible task to get a message across to all the villages nearby, asking them to ‘secure all animals on the day of the race.’ In fact, they would have loved to have had Facebook! And so, the motorists, between one curve and another, had to dodge donkeys, horses, cows, sheep, pigs, and even locals.
The competition had an international flair, with giants of motoring like Mercedes, Porsche and Ferrari all participating. The race offered a unique opportunity for people to experience and enjoy the race first-hand, and to shout on their favourites to victory. It was very popular. The three-time winner of Targa Florio and Italian motor-racing legend, Nino Vaccarella, said about it, “The scenes of the Targa Florio are unique. People lived and breathed the race, feeling like winners after the victory of the house favourite. In those days, it was me.” So popular and successful was Vaccarella that he was nicknamed the Preside Volante, meaning ‘the flying headmaster.’
After celebrating the 100-year anniversary in 2016, the 2018 edition was full of positive predictions and plans for the future. Angelo Pizzuto, President of the Automobile Club in Palermo and the organiser of the race, wanted to remember how the race “started a process of internationalisation that brought Targa Florio to Australia.” A future full of expectations that leads to “one day the Targa Florio becoming a worldwide title, coveted by millions of athletes“.
The Targa Florio Museum in Collesano is a must-see for all motor-racing fans. It celebrates the traditions of Italian sport, and specifically the oldest motor race in the world. Here, enthusiasts will be able to admire relics, photos, trophies, parts of historic cars, drivers’ suits, newspapers, books, classifications and other material that will allow to explore the history of the race. Three other museums have also been opened by private individuals in Cerda, Campofelice di Roccella, and Termini Imerese.