There is nothing better than sipping a fine Florio Marsala wine with a nice dessert or at the end of a rich lunch. The Vecchioflorio, the old dry one, is a wine of very ancient tradition, made from two qualities of grapes: grillo and catarratto, that grow in the province of Trapani. It is aged for 2 years in ancient oak casks to become one of the best incomparable wine of all times for sweets and desserts.
The Florio family is undoubtedly considered the most industrious and enlightened family of entrepreneurs in Palermo’s modern times. Originally from Calabria, they arrived in Sicily at the end of the XVIIIth century starting the production of wine, the famous Marsala that took the name from the area in which the wine cellars were located: Le Cantine Florio.
Vincenzo Florio started the production in 1833 becoming the biggest competitor of the English companies that had started to produce and sell the Marsala wine some years before in the same region: Woodhouse, Ingham-Whitaker, Hopps.
Florio had their fingers in many pies: not only wine, but also tuna-fisheries, shipping company, a spinning mill, foundries and ceramics factory, and last but not least they created a car race across Sicily that still boasts their name: Targa Florio.
But this is not the end of the story. Infact, they were so important that made build many mansions for their family: from Villa Igiea to the precious Villino Florio (in the picture). This villa was commissioned by the head of the family Vincenzo Florio, an art lover, to the famous architect Ernesto Basile who started the construction between 1900 and 1902.
The building is situated near corso Olivuzza and is an exceptional testimony of the Art Nouveau style and architecture. It has a garden, a pond and is surrounded by trees. Besides at the entrance there is a wrought iron gate. It is still considered one of the best jewel of architecture and originality of the Palermitan “Stile Liberty” (the name we call the Art Nouveau in Italy.)
After an arson in 1962 it had several restorations both in the building and in the decorations.
So now it’s easier to understand why the Florios became symbols of a wealthy Sicily, centre of culture; modern, proactive and extremely civilised, and it is definetely for these reasons that their legend was so well consolidated during centuries and it remains strong until today.