We love a good road trip especially when there’s a bit of history behind the route. I (Mr W) love motorsport heritage and I have been known to make Mrs W spend hours walking certain tracks. Unsurprisingly she doesn’t share the in-depth interest in the kerbs of Casino Square in Monaco or the elevation changes of Watkins Glen in the heart of New York State.
However, we do both love driving through dramatic and beautiful countryside whether it’s through the deserts of Nevada in a Ferrari 458 Italia or around the lakes and mountains of Northern Italy in a Fiat 500.
Italy is one country we love to visit and in particular, the rugged, relatively unspoilt island of Sicily. With its warm springs and long summers, it is a perfect destination for an off-peak break. And of course, it was the home to one of the oldest motor races in the world, the classic Targa Florio.
The Targa Florio – A Brief History
The Targa Florio endurance road race was first run in 1906 which makes it the world’s oldest motor racing event. The original 3 lap race through the mountain roads covered a distance of 277 miles.
The route varied over the years until the final 11 lap, 45 mile, Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie incarnation which was used from 1951 until the races discontinuation in 1977. One of the main reasons for ending the race was safety, a number of crashes occurred involving spectators and there were very few safety features around the circuit.
Driving The Circuit
To really appreciate the beautiful countryside of Sicily it may be better to take a slightly more relaxed pace and stop in the villages rather than trying to match the 35-minute a lap racing days.
Leaving Palermo, Sicily’s capital, drive along the north coast and then start the climb inland up to Cerda passing the old pit complex. From Cerda, the roads start to wind as you work your way through the hairpin bends as you continue to climb to the town of Caltavuturo, just over 2000 feet in altitude.
Next, you start to descend through Scillato and then on towards Collesano passing through the stunning Madonie Regional Natural Park. If you are visiting early in the year this area can be especially beautiful with its springtime flowers.
After Collesano it’s a downhill plunge all the way back to the coast and the town of Campofelice di Roccella.
Then it’s along the coast road for 6 miles before turning inland again if you want to try a second lap, (maybe go for a lap record this time) or carry on straight along the coast if you want to head back to Palermo.
What To Drive
It doesn’t matter what you drive to appreciate the rugged beauty of the Sicilian landscape but to really get a sense of excitement and the glamour of the Targa Florio’s heyday then a grand tourer (or gran turismo as we are in Italy) is the way to go.
If you are lucky enough, you must drive the circuit in a classic Alfa Romeo, Maserati or Porsche who all dominated the race during various periods of the race’s history.
As well as its rich motoring heritage Sicily is a unique mix of natural beauty and cultures. It has been influenced by the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans to the Byzantines, Arabs, Normans.
So if you haven’t visited yet, grab your driving gloves and Steve McQueen sunglasses and go.