100 Years of the Targa Florio with RIAR
Having missed the Giro in Sicily due to date clashes, we set off a few weeks later for the International Rally of the Italian Historic Alfa Romeo Club (RIAR) to commemorate the centenary of the Targa Florio, arranged by the President of RIAR, Stefano d'Amico.
Trisha and Richard in their beautiful 1750 Zagato, John and I (Carolyn) in the Llewelyn Figoni bodied 1750 and Kirk and Alannah Rylands with the Pilks' TT Alfa en trailer due to the difficulties of hiring a car for the return journey and needing to leave the Alfas near Genoa for the Vernasca hillclimb. Leaving Château Pilson near Dijon to drive to Genoa, firstly the Pilks had distributor trouble, skilfully rectified in a shaded layby; then we had to make a quick detour to a French Doctor to make sure I didn't have appendicitis and then going over the Simplon Pass the Rylands Range Rover boiled and stopped in a tunnel. So they unloaded the TT car for Kirk to drive, cooled the R.R. which Alannah bravely drove in torrential rain to meet up at our overnight stop just in Italy. Next morning after a very hot drive to near Vernasca to leave the R.R. and trailer, the TT car now on the road but needing a push start every time it stopped due to a faulty battery, we finally found the dock in Genoa for the 23 hour crossing to Palermo. There were about 6 Alfas waiting at the quay, all much younger models than ours.
We met up the following evening in Palermo with the rest of the troupe, 23 Alfas in all, everyone Italian bar a couple of Finns who had driven from Helsinki in their 1973 GT 1600 Junior.
Over the next couple of days we travelled, in searing heat, mostly along the northern coast, taking in the obligatory photo stop at what remains of the old Pits of the Targa Florio, then Cefalu to Milazzo where a private boat had been arranged for a trip to the islands off the north east coast. We missed out on this as the 1750 sucked a bug into its' carburetor causing it to backfire with such force that it blew the pop-off valve spring off and we stopped on the side of the motorway. The emergency back up number did not respond so we were scooped up, at great expense, by the Sicilian Motorway services, who in turn and even greater expense took us to the secure parking organised for the day at a bus depot in a field in the middle of nowhere, the others by now having departed for the boat. Our saviour was a young man called Stefano who was left at our disposal, he ferried us around the motor parts dealers of Messina; finally a lovely old boy found a suitable spring and split pin for no charge and no common language but Alfa Romeo! Back to the bus depot and the temperature now well over 40c we were fixed and on our way to Taormina and reputedly the best Hotel on the Island. They were not wrong. We felt very smug sitting sipping a cold aperitif having swum and changed by the time the rest of the party arrived v. hot and tired but having had a marvellous time.
Next to Mount Etna and we were taken by Unimog people carriers up the lava flow from the most recent eruption in 2004 to the snow line and the edge of one of the craters, an eerie black landscape with white skeletal trees dotted here and there.
A second night in Taormina allowed a little sight seeing of this beautiful place. Then back to where we started in Palermo cutting a diagonal route across the middle from Catania and through Enna. The best run was left to the last morning. Close to the Hotel was the famous Via Pietro Bonanno hill climb, the last competition Nuvolari drove. The old timed section from Palermo to Mount Peligrino was about 8 kms then a few more to the top, 606 mtrs, for the most spectacular views of the Gulf of Palermo. Going in order of oldest car first we were escorted up by motor cycle Caribinieri who quickly warmed to the speed and hooliganism of the three of us, egging the TT car on at every bend and leaving the rest of the field behind. The rest of the day was a guided tour of the old part of Palermo (thankfully by air-conditioned coach) and the best lunch of the week in the beautiful gardens of a villa in the centre of town, owned by Barone Chiamonte Bordonaro ex piloto della Targa Florio.
Another long ferry crossing and a farewell to our fellow participants who left it until then to be friendly - funny bunch!
Abiding memories - the heat - the lunches - the lovely Christina who guided us at every turn - and the spectacular scenery.