The island has experienced countlesss invasions through its turbulent past. The Lion’s Head found at Himera, a temple constructed close to the Targa Florio circuit, celebrates the victory in 489 BC of the Greeks over the Carthaginians.
The invasions are numerous: Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Holy Roman Empire, Spanish, Austrian, French all interspersed with periods of anarchy; a rich cultural background! Many of the villages on the Targa circuit were strongly fortified against rival Sicilians.
The story of the Leopard (Il Gattopardo) details the changes happening in 1860 when Garibaldi landed at Marsala and, with the help of a popular revolution, initiated the unification of Sicily to the mainland. Many of the peasants saw this as a god given chance to free them from the slavery and feudalism they had endured for centuries. Although now celebrating 150 years of being ‘Italians’, they remain first and foremost Sicilian.
The political change enabled modern merchant families like the Florio dynasty to flourish which in turn led to the introduction of the motor car – the greatest invasion of all which fundamentally brought Sicily into the modern world. Vincenzo Florio brought the first motor to the island in 1898 – a De Dion Tricycle where, although only 15 years old, he developed his passion for racing with other compatriots around Palermo’s Parco della Favorita and he even set up a race with a horse and a bicycle. The horse won for the last time! More cars rapidly joined the Florio stable, Peugeot,
Benz, Mercedes, FIAT and his relationship with Felice Nazzaro flourished.