A green take on the Targa Florio and the best of Italian telly

| 3 Oct 2011

I'm writing this on my Blackberry from a pizzeria in Palermo, having just done the Eco Targa Florio (29 September–2 October).Full report to follow, either in a column or a feature because I need editor Clements to pay my plane ticket, but I thought I’d share a few observations, nonetheless.This is not the hairy, horsepower-fuelled Targa Florio as we fondly remember it, to be honest, but something more akin to a booze-cruise variant of the Wacky Races. Or possibly the Gumball Rally, with some nice hotels and great food thrown in.The ‘eco’ bit refers to the five electric cars that nobody ever saw during the four days, other than in the car park at the beginning; probably some government grant money involved here, I guess.The second part of the event comprised more modern Ferraris than I would normally ever care to see in one place, driven by a thoroughly international selection of Dick Dastardlys: a lot of contrived exhaust notes, macho revving up etc – in other words a massive Ferrari ‘who’s got the biggest [smallest?] appendage' competition.

Much better were the cars in the classic contingent, which included a Pinin Farina-bodied Bristol 400, a Lancia Flavia and a Cisitalia – along with a Zagato-bodied Fiat 1100 and an Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite, which I was in.

More detail in the magazine, but the Frogeye’s participation was not a success and I resolved that, should I ever be invited on something like this again, I will do it in my own car. That sounds churlish and ungrateful, but I'm on my third Birra Moretti grande and I don't give a damn.Palermo is a kind of nightmare, but I sort of love it, too. It’s an intense version of Italy and all its contradictions: great poverty and great wealth, great beauty and surprising squalor. And a volcano that was smoking a bit while we were there, leaving a black dust on the road that's as slippery as snow.Tonight I'm in a very basic bed-and-breakfast in Palermo after days of luxury, but it’s almost a relief. The TV here is awful. My personal hell would be being forced to watch Italian telly for eternity. Having said that, I've been splitting my sides at some of the tacky channel-specific advertising for hair-restorer products and technically advanced bras.Got a fairly early flight so better sign off. Be seeing you.