In this particularly cool April, Sicily offers strikingly green panoramas along the Madonie circuit, the narrow, twisty roads along which the Targa Florio has always been run. It was this exceptionally tough course that gave the race iconic status from the outset: in its initial years, just to complete it was a titanic feat.
Over the one hundred previous editions three different circuits, of different lengths, have been used, passing through places that have become the true, symbolic heart of the Targa Florio. Roads along which onlookers amassed, creating banks of spectators which made it extremely difficult for drivers to find the fastest trajectories. The Targa Florio Classica started from the Museo dei Motori e dei Meccanismi in Palermo, and passed through Caltavuturo, Castellana Sicula, Petralia Sottana, Geraci Siculo and Castelbuono, with a halt at the Chiostro di San Francesco, followed by the trial sessions at Campofelice di Roccella, the famous Floriopoli with the Cerda Grandstand, Termini Imerese and finally Trabia. 305 adrenaline-packed kilometres.
The variety of landscapes to be enjoyed the route of the race is truly stunning, from the bustling seaside to the tranquillity of the Madonie Regional Park. For these few days the quiet of the hills and peaks will be broken only by the roar of the engines: one of the most distinctive is that of the twin-cam engine of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint Speciale.
Giulia Sprint Speciale (1963)
The Giulia Sprint Speciale was an evolution – with 1,600 cc twin camshaft engine – of the Giulietta version of the same name, designed by Franco Scaglione for the Bertone carriage-works on the car’s short-wheelbase chassis. It is one of his loveliest creations: long and wide (actually larger than the sedan), the Giulietta Sprint Speciale is an extremely low, streamlined coupé with sleek, curvy lines. The absence of bumpers and its large “shark mouth” radiator immediately gave it dream car status. But this sophisticated design was the outcome of meticulous aerodynamic research, which produced its low nose and distinctive cut-off rear. Performance was very impressive: its 1570 cc longitudinal front engine delivered 113 HP and powered the Giulia SS to a top speed of 191 km/h.
Huddled beneath the “Rocca di Sciara” mountain, Caltavuturo originated as an ancient stronghold, presumably in Byzantine times. Its population of 4,000 eagerly awaits the passage of the Targa Florio each year, with a passion that makes the start of the race a real festival. The heart of the Madonie is genuinely the heart of the Targa Florio, and one of Caltavuturo’s residents is a living example of the local passion for motor-sports: his name is Gioacchino Vercio. After making good during as a car mechanic and bodywork repairer in Germany, he came home to Caltavuturo and built a large garage where he now keeps exquisite, rare Alfa Romeo cars, restoring them in person with the care of the authentic craftsman. An SZ is his favourite: he proudly displays a 2000 Bertone and he raced a Giulietta Sprint right across Europe for 25 years. How many Alfa Romeos has he got? He would have to think for a minute to count them all, and he dreams of opening his own personal museum to the public.
Castelbuono is the biggest town in the Madonie, in a delightful position surrounded by ancient ash and chestnut woods: there is a refreshment stop here, and the drivers also enjoy an affectionate welcome from the spectators who have tackled the steep streets of the little town to greet the cars in piazza San Francesco.
Cerda has always been a stage of the Targa Florio. The course, comprising 11 laps of the circuit Floriopoli Grandstand – Cerda town – Caltavuturo – Scillato – Collesano – Campofelice di Roccella – Floriopoli Grandstand, total length 72 km, was initially unpaved and in some places barely suitable for road traffic. In the earliest editions, the race started and finished on the Buonfornello straight, and it was only later that Vincenzo Florio had a grandstand and garages built at the start of the SS 120 Etna highway, a few kilometres outside Cerda.
Palermo, 23 April 2017