Sicily’s Monte Pellegrino Historic Honors Vast History And Enduring Beauty
Photography by Rosario Liberti
It’s the middle of the week again, and while tempting to favor the side of Wednesday that leads to the coming weekend, let’s look back at the one just passed instead. With the season of cars shows now well underway in the face of an approaching summer, we are often saddled with the challenging decisions of which events to attend and which must sadly be skipped, but given the opportunity, the Monte Pellegrino Historic is one such gathering that you wouldn’t want to pass up. If you weren’t at the 2017 running that wrapped up a few days prior though, we can at least give you the vicarious experience.
After all, a fleet of machines that counts among its ranks the likes of the almost-ubiquitous Porsche 911 to the rarely seen (and rarely recognized) ATS Sport 1000 romping through the city of Palermo after surging up Mount Pellegrino is an occasion deserving of yearning. There are multitudes of hill climb events open to vintage cars the world over though, so why is this one any more special than the others that are offering a similar spectacle?
Because provenance matters. We will be the last to bemoan any fledgling vintage car events during their formative early years—because, really, complaining about too many new rallies, tours, concours, track days, or whatever it may be… it’s just ridiculous to not want as much of this stuff as possible if you call yourself an enthusiast—but that being said, we will also be the first to appreciate a deep well of history to feed into the in-the-moment excitement of seeing the past in action as these venerable machines relive and revive their illustrious origin stories.
The original Sicilian hillclimb up the mountain was held between 1908 until 1976, with world class teams and talent shuttling their racing cars up the narrow and winding ribbon toward the top of Mount Pellegrino. Famous for its lists of famed marques, drivers, and teams that competed there, perhaps it is best known as the last race wherein Tazio Nuvolari, or “The Flying Mantuan,” would claim the final victory of his career, securing a first-in-his-class finish in the 1950 running of the climb.
The historic weekend now consists of additional venues along with the original ascent of the mountain. It begins in earnest with the participants bringing their pre-1977 vehicles to Palermo’s horse racing course, La Favorita Hippodrome, to offer spectators a chance to view the gleaming cars before they head skyward. After this section of the “dynamic concours,” the cars are then launched up the mountain in two heats of frenzied attempts to conquer the imposing vertical challenge. On the third and closing day of the weekend, a section of the city of Palermo is closed off, granting a rare opportunity for a cobblestoned scramble through some quintessentially Italian city streets. All in all, a comprehensive tour of town and country—by way of racing car.
Clearly a weekend full of cars both beautiful and boisterous, it’s easy to get lost in the sights that result from such a combination. So while browsing our gallery of the 2017 edition of the Monte Pellegrino Historic, try to keep things in perspective. More specifically, what I encourage you to do is to try to think of how much stuff has gone into each scene in each image. The cars were built by people many decades ago, they were raced in-period all over the world and have since been sought out and cared for and allowed the chance to perform the functions they were created for. Now they have been amassed in a Sicilian city in a year that upon their birth seemed like a very far future indeed, and they are only here again because their stewards recognize and revel in the history they hold. So to the organizers and entrants and everyone else responsible for events like this one, thank you.