Those Quattro Pizzi at Arenella
In memory of Cecè and Silvana Paladino Florio
In 1840 Vincenzo Florio Sr., at the height of splendor of the numerous and still profitable family’s enterprises, commissioned his Paduan friend, the architect Carlo Giachery, to create an elegant and modern residence near its “tonnara” called Arenella, between Capo Zafferano and the gardens of Villa Igiea, under Monte Pellegrino.
I always go to Palermo with pleasure, but in the past the house of “Quattro Pizzi” was for me a must. It was inhabited by two magnificent people, Vincenzo, better known as Cecè, and Silvana Paladino Florio, with their beautiful children and some elderly service people. Knowing my automotive passions, but above all, the one for Florio epic, she had introduced me to them another dear Palermitan friend, also dead, Elvira Sellerio, thirty years ago, cultured and refined publisher. The Paladinos, but particularly Silvana, because Cecè was almost always
in Madagascar, they were the true custodians of historical and cultural heritage of Vincenzo Florio Jr., the last of dynasty, the one who invented the Targa in 1906. Cecè was the youngest Lucie Henry’s nephew, second and beautiful wife of Vincenzo Florio whose first wife, Annina Alliata di Montereale died of cholera at a very young age. Lucie was a very capable and brilliant woman who did not she hesitated to sell many of his precious jewels in order to save what was the last symbol and the last home of the Florio family, the Quattro Pizzi. Cecè was therefore an acquired but preferred nephew of Vincenzo, who adopted and educated him in his image and with the same passions, and not by chance he appointed universal heir.
Cecè and Silvana
The interior of the house was and still is, a real museum, the temple of the Targa Florio and beyond. The large, bright, sunny and flowery terraces overlooking the sea and the balconies themselves with richly worked cast iron railings by Oretea Foundries, another Florio company, enclose behind them precious memorabilia and effort, memories not only of the Targa but of this legendary family. Moving under multicolored frescoes, in elegant and flowery liberty style, between rooms and corridors full of stories, loves, pains, past splendors and in any case of intensely lived lives, between shadows and twilight of fluttering curtains filtering the blue and strong light of Sicily, you always have the feeling of not being alone and seeing Vincenzo Florio appear from his study there, with the inevitable straw hat that looks at you sly but satisfied to be loved and still remembered.
The numerous paintings between Vincenzo Florio’s naif and futurism, hanging everywhere, from the kitchens to his study, simple and bright, photographs of a vanished Sicily, look and mock the amazement and emotion of visitor lost among memories and vestiges of so much history but also of so much pomp. We are increasingly amazed and certainly regretted…. regretted for times and men who no longer foresee and will never return.
The images used in this article are for illustrative purposes and belong to their respective owners.