All you need to know about Palermo

targa florio 2020

Picture: Dasalpi_Photo

The historic appointment with the Targa Florio 2020 Classica is back!

It is one of the most difficult and fascinating car racing in the world, with all the charm of the glorious past of the Florio’s: the famous family who was protagonist in the Sicilian history and economy for more than two centuries.

The Targa Florio Classica is reserved for cars produced until 1977. In the other categories you can admire the most modern cars: the Targa Florio Legend (from 1978 to 1990) and the Targa Florio Gran Turismo (from 1991 to 2019). Very interesting will be also the Ferrari Tribute to Targa Florio, which will collect some of the owners of Ferrari.

Also this year Palermo will be the key location of the event, hosting the arrival and departure ceremonies on race days.

Targa Florio 2020: the program

Thursday, October 15

The crews participating in the race will reach Palermo for the technical checks.

Friday, October 16

The historic cars will leave for Marsala and Campobello di Mazara, driving through the Salt Pans area, and then return to Palermo retracing the itinerary of Garibaldi and the Thousand. The locations involved in the race will be Monreale, Altofonte, Partinico, Castellammare del Golfo, Valderice, Trapani, Marsala, Campobello di Mazara, Mazara del Vallo, Castelvetrano, Partanna and Calatafimi.

Saturday, October 17

It will be the day of the Circuito delle Madonie, the mountains east of Palermo, crossing the villages of Caltavuturo, Polizzi Generosa, Collesano and Campofelice di Roccella.

Sunday, October 18

After the adrenaline of the previous days, there will be room for celebration and memory. The competitors who want to try the Favorita Circuit, in a race out of the ranking. The prize-giving ceremony of the winners will follow.

Participants and historic cars

The Targa Florio 2020 continues to be a successful event today: more than 100 crews are registered. The oldest car is from 1929, the Lancia Lambda VIII Series by Olindo Deserti and Maurizio Demarco. The winner of last year’s Targa Florio Classica, Mario Passanante, will also be present with the 1937 Fiat 508C.

The Ferrari Tribute will allow to admire the models produced from 1991 to 2019: from the Ferrari 360 Modena to the Ferrari 812 GTS. In the Legend category will run instead the Ferrari GTS Turbo, of 1988, and 308 GTS, of 1980.

The other car manufacturers represented are Porsche (with models 911 and 933), Jaguar, Mercedes, Austin Haley, Morris Garages, Riley, Maserati, Bentley and many others.

Targa Florio: the history

Targa Florio Palermo

Picture: Rustam Bikbov

The competition is linked to the person of Vincenzo Florio, born in Palermo in 1833. A great sports lover who was one of the first car owners in the city: in his car fleet stood out the Mercedes 60 HP, which accompanied him in his first sports competitions and his successes.

It was Vincenzo Florio who traced the first route on a sheet of paper: Cerda, Caltavuturo, Petralia, Geraci, Castelbuono, Isnello, Collesano, Campofelice: a route free of level crossings, not far from Palermo, 146 km and 900 m long.

The first race took place in 1906 and the first headquarters was the Grand Hotel delle Terme in Termini Imerese. Vincenzo Florio had two large wooden sheds built, used as grandstands and boxes for cars, a wooden overpass to cross the road without hindering the race, a restaurant and a press room equipped with an international telegraph: it was something exceptional, because in 1906 the only international telegraph in Italy was in Milan.

Two music bands entertained the public while waiting for the cars to pass by. Florio had 400 meters of tracks built, connected to the railway line from Palermo to Messina: this facilitated the arrival of the public with the train from Palermo.

On the day of the first race there were about sixteen thousand people, the price of the train ticket was 13 lire and included round trip, return, entrance to the stands and a voucher for breakfast.

The Targa Florio became soon a meeting place for nobles and people of culture: a real social event with Donna Franca Florio, the Countess Morosini, the Countess of Mazzarino, Princess Lanza di Trabia and many other nobles.

Very famous are the names of the drivers who took part in this maifestation in the past: Ferrari, Nuvolari, Cagno, Nazzaro, Chiron, Masetti, Axari, Camopari, Lancia, Varzi.

And still today it is an event of great charm and an extra reason to visit Palermo and its surroundings!

Palermo Wonders: be ready for your perfect day!

Corleone tomatoes

Corleone’s tomatoes are a special product you can find in the Sicilian markets from July to October.

This is perfect to do one of the most traditional activities of Sicilian families: the tomato paste. there are many recipes to make it and actually each family has its own, but the basic ingredients are 3: tomatoes, basil and … the food mill!

If you visit Palermo and the small Sicilian towns in summer, you will probably enjoy a sweet smell of tomato in the air: that means that in a house near you someone is preparing the tomato paste!

It is very important to choose the right tomatoes: the best, in our opinion, is the Siccagno tomato from Corleone. 


Corleone is a large agricultural center between Palermo and Agrigento, a place of cattle and sheep breeding, an area where they produce cheese, quality wines, cereals and many other products.

An excellent product and, in our opinion, not yet properly valued, is that particular variety of tomato called “Siccagno“, but also curly or star-shaped tomato.

The “Siccagno” tomato

Corleone pomodoro siccagno

The Sicilian tomato has many varieties (pachino, picadilly, datterino etc.) and is the basic ingredient of many typical Sicilian products, such as sauces, tomato paste, dried tomatoes, pesto pantesco or Trapani style, fish or meat sauce.

However, it often happens nowadays that tomatoes no longer have that intense concentration of nutrients and taste, and all this results in a disappointment for the palate. This happens simply because tomatoes contain too much water, which is used in massive doses for their cultivation.

The solution is then represented by tomatoes grown without the use of water, dry: hence the name “Siccagno” (from the Italian word “secco”, dry).

These tomatoes, however, need the right soil and climatic conditions. Here comes to our rescue the area of Corleone, which is the perfect place for the cultivation of this product, thanks to the fertility of the soil, able to bring an adequate level of water and nutrients to everything that is grown there.

The Corleone tomato plant is very productive, adapts to various climatic conditions and, not being irrigated, has few fruits, relatively small (100/120g), but very tasty fleshy, of an intense red color.

Tradition at the service of modern food


It is an ancient plant: we know that in 1770 the community of Agrigento offered a lunch to its bishop and among the various dishes there were pork rinds filled with the sauce made of “waterless tomatoes of Corleone“, as the English Patrick Brydone tells us.

Recently this plant has been rediscovered by nutritionists around the world and is a recommended food for a healthy and balanced diet, because it does not have many calories, is rich in minerals, trace elements, vitamins and antioxidants.

We really love this variety of tomato and we hope that in the future people do not only know the Pachino and Sammarzano (Roma) tomatoes, but also the Siccagno tomato from Corleone.

Since it is an excellent product of the Corleone area, in 2019 the City of Corleone organized the first edition of the “Siccagno Fest”: an event organized in order to promote this product, to start a path that will lead to the request of the IGP and DOP classification.

The Siccagno tomato from Corleone is an excellent product and we are sure that in the coming years you will hear more and more about it!

Just to be honest, we just bought 2 kg of Siccagno tomatoes from Corleone, we have basil, olive oil, salt…so we are ready to cook our tomato sauce for our pasta at lunch!

Palermo Wonders: be ready for your perfect day! 

grand hotel et des palmes

Foto: Cercamon

The Grand Hotel et des Palmes will open its doors in December 2020 and will be a 5 stars luxury hotel in an excellent location: on Via Roma, a few steps from the Theater Politeama and the Theater Massimo.

The new structure will host more than 100 rooms that will also include suites and super suites with terrace. It will have 3 restaurants, a spa, an indoor swimming pool and green areas. There will be a roof garden on the rooftops for a top quality restaurant.

The hotel is completing the restoration works, respecting all the original materials and decorations. A work of research of the original designs, in accordance with the Regional Office of Cultural Heritage.

An example is the hall of mirrors, one of the best known: the degraded or missing wood carvings have been restored using casts of those existing in other mirrors. The room where Richard Wagner slept will be transformed into a suite named after the German musician.

A hotel of great luxury, in the center of the city, great protagonist of the history of Palermo, theater of many historical periods and many stories.

Grand hotel et des Palmes: Luxury and History

Private home

It was built in 1847 by the Ingham-Whitaker family, English entrepreneurs present in Sicily mainly thanks to the production of Marsala wine.

It was a private residence with a secret tunnel that crossed the Via Roma and reached the Anglican church in front of it, built by importing the necessary material directly from England, to allow the English visiting Palermo to have a place of worship. The church still entrusted today to the diocese of Gibraltar. The entrance to the passage is in the Sala Azzurra, hidden by a mirror.

Art Nouveau hotel

In 1874 the building was sold to the Enrico Ragusa, who already owned the hotel Trinacria, in via Butera. The building was transformed into a hotel: Ernesto Basile was commissioned to design the transformation of the palace and the building became the symbol of Palermo at the beginning of the 20th century. The hotel took the name Grand hotel et des Palmes and was a very luxurious place with marble, mirrors and inlaid decorations.

Famous Customers

The guests of excellence were not few:

Between 1881 and 1882: Richard Wagner stayed there, together with his second wife Cosima Listz and eight other people. It was here that the writing of Parsifal was finished. Wagner, however, did not have a good relationship with the owner of the hotel, so much so that he said “The only bandit I know in Sicily is the hotelier Ragusa”.

In 1893 the Italian Prime Minister, Francesco Crispi, directed the operations against the “Fasci Siciliani” from the Grand Hotel et des Palmes and gave lessons in politics.

In 1917 Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, Prime Minister, organized a dinner with 12 courses.

The place of mysteries

The hotel has also been the scene of many mysteries and very original situations: rooms turned into American secret service offices, poisoned philosophers, missing journalists, mysterious suicides, summit of mafia bosses and noblemen with a strange destiny!

In 1933 the French surrealist writer Raymond Russel was found dead, in his bed in a hotel room. Officially it was a suicide by hiring barbiturates. But Leonardo Sciascia, years later, returned to this “cold case” in his “Acts relating to the death of Raymond Russel” and revealed many doubts about this case. In 2013, the writer Antonio Fiasconaro presented at the Grand Hotel delle Palme a detective story about this case: “Death of an author”.

Headquarters during the Second World War

In 1943 the hotel was requisitioned by the U.S. Navy and Lieutenant Colonel Charles Poletti, AMGOT camp, together with General George Smith Patton, turned it into their headquarters for war operations.

But it was also the place where meetings were held with exponents of the Sicilian-American mafia and it was perhaps in this place that the boss Lucky Luciano was expelled from the United States in 1946. The same Lucky Luciano, in 1956, organized in the hotel a summit between the exponents of the American and Sicilian mafia.

The cast of The Leopard and other actors

In the post-war period it became the point of reference of the politics and hosted important people like Renato Guttuso, Giorgio De Chirico, Luchino Visconti, Burt Lancaster, Vittorio Gassman, Fred Buscaglione, Maria Callas, Primo Carnera, Francis Ford Coppola, Patty Pravo and Al Pacino.

The most original guest: Baron Di Stefano

The guest who made the history of the hotel is undoubtedly the Barone Di Stefano, who occupied room 204 for almost 50 years: until 1998, when he died at the age of 92. A book was also written about this character: “Palermo solo”, by the French writer Philippe Fusaro.

The Baron, born in Castelvetrano, in the province of Trapani, was forced by the Mafia to choose between a violent death and a life as a prisoner: this was the punishment for killing a young boy caught stealing almonds in his feud. Every so often the Baron “escaped” from his luxurious prison, it is said that he went to Naples by ship, to attend the operas.

He had very precise habits: after lunch he used to go around the block, the barber and the tailor came to visit him in his suite when necessary. He frequented the famous people who stayed at the hotel and everyone was attracted by his charisma and his unique history. When he died, the hotel gave him the honor of leaving the main entrance, as a deceased, with all the employees lined up.

Discover our walking tour!


Palermo Wonders: be ready for your perfect day!