Targa Florio race is the oldest race in the world. This is enough to describe the Targa Florio Sicily, flagship of Sicily motor racing, ideal stage for the class of champions and cars that became pieces of history for the mere fact of having faced and won against the 72 kilometers of the Madonie circuit.
Targa Florio race: how everything started.
Targa Florio race was founded, organized and funded by Vincenzo Florio, conceived when he was in Paris. The Florio family was one of the richest families in Palermo and Vincenzo was literally fascinated by cars, beautiful jewels, and objects of desire of the wealthiest men of the time. Targa Florio circuit includes the mountain hamlets of Madonie Park, which is today one the two Sicilian properties inscribed in the list of UNESCO Global Geopaks. Cars has to drive along very tiny and dangerous streets and alleys, thus making Targa Florio race an epic competition because of the great difficulty of the track.
Targa Florio race was organized for the first time in 1906 and soon it became famous all over the world. Vincenzo Florio will leave a legacy enclosed in the famous quote: “You must continue my work, because I created it to challenge time”. The first edition was a real triumph for Vincenzo Florio, a remarkable event, also a fashion catwalk for noble women, an occasion of meeting for the upper class.
The first edition of Targa Florio Sicily, dated 1906, was received with astonishment by the men of the time. Nobles and upper middle class found themselves in the official gallery arranged on the home stretch, enlivened by two musical bands. The presence of people was massive, attracted more than by the competition, by cars, since most of them had never seen one.
The excellent organization of Targa Florio race makes the pair with the 10 cars participants, a respectable number for the time, not to mention that other 12 competitors enrolled could not participate because of the delays to the ferries that transported the cars. The winner of the first edition was the Itala of Cagno, which ended the three laps in 9 hours and 32 minutes, at the respectable average of 46 kilometers per hour.
Targa Florio racefrom that moment on was played almost without interruption and it was a success for the image of Sicily. Only the wars dared to stop it. Quickly, the prestige of the Sicilian challenge attracted more and more famous drivers. At the same time the interest of the constructors grew, who saw in the Targa Florio Sicily race the perfect test bench to test the resistance of their cars. To finish such a race was considered a real mammoth task, beyond the mere sport result. Due to the several accidents with injured people and deaths, not only among the riders but also the public, Targa Florio race has turned over time from a speed race towards a rally competition having its departure in Palermo. Along with the Madonie Park, the itinerary also include Trapani and the salt pans.
Targa Florio circuit: The Small Circuit of the Madonie
Targa Florio circuit, the so-called Small Circuit of the Madonie winds along the mountains of the Madonie Park, 60 kilometers from Palermo. The start is in Cerda, near the grandstands of Floriopoli, followed by a long, fast, and smooth stretch that precedes the climb to the mountains. Higher and higher, towards Caltavuturo, 700 meters above sea level. A slow and tortuous path made of salts and descents between the mountain villages that are the romantic backdrop to the bolidi; crossed the small houses of Scillato and Collesano you go back down, towards the coast, up to Campofelice, where begins the endless straight of Buonfornello that leads to the arrival. And this, 72 kilometers long, is just the short version! This route of Targa Florio race was used in the editions valid for the World Sport-Prototypes, but there are also some variants.
The largest version of the Targa Florio circuit, of 148 kilometers in total, was used in editions between 1906 and 1911 and then one last time in 1931. There is also an intermediate version, on which ran the editions between 1919 and 1930, with a total length of 108 kilometers. Other versions are those of 1937-38 and 1940, played at the Parco della Favorita in Palermo, in a circuit of only 5 kilometers.
Targa Florio racecrossed several hamlets, but Collesano represents the symbol of the passion for racing, in fact, it drank from the history of the Targa Florio Sicily and tasted its emotions, from the terrible joys to the despondency of its suppression. Today – with the “Targa Florio” Museum – Collesano makes the honour of passing on the vivid memory of what was and will never be forgotten. The Museum is one of a kind, it contains an important and evocative collection of photos, unpublished documentaries, objects, and memorabilia from the hardest and most fascinating road race of all time, the legendary Targa Florio circuit. By visiting this museum, you will feel part of this historic event.
Half an hour from Collesano there is the city of Cefalù where you can admire a great example of moorish architecture in Sicily. Palermo is instead the capital of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Metropolitan City of Palermo – known worldwide for Arabic architecture. If you are planning a longer tour you can consider the option of a 6 days tour in western Sicily, visiting the highlights of the area, such as Palermo, Cefalù, Monreale, Trapani, Erice and Segesta. In any case, you will not be disappointed, because the beauties of Sicily are endless.