In Memory of The Shoemaker of the Champions
Francesco Liberto, "Ciccio di Cefalù"
Cefalù, January 20th, 2022
Dear Friends: After so many years I must close my shop. It's time for me to focus on myself, my family and my health. Actually, my shop on the seafront, a point of reference for many car enthusiasts, is now a new business. It was nice to be in the spotlight, meeting so many people and having such loyal and passionate customers and friends. I must thank a lot of people so it's impossible for me to mention someone without running the risk of forgetting someone else. I will name just three for obvious reasons: Ignazio Giunti, Nanni Galli and Geki Russo, so a thank you to them with whom my splendid adventure began. Geki went to Heaven far too soon, only a few months after I met him. Nanni was my friend for many years, even if we rarely met once the Targa Florio era ended. With Ignazio, however, it was different. He was the one who guided me during my studies and the production of the ideal shoe, which made drivers feel at ease when their feet were on the pedals, and even if he left us too soon and in such a heartbreaking way, we had the time and opportunity to strengthen our friendship, which was deep, sincere and selfless. It is a friendship that still lasts today through his family, thanks to the unconditional esteem that binds me to the Giunti family. Finally, I must certainly mention Vic Elford. Without his extraordinary victory at the Targa in 1968, which he generously dedicated to me for those curious asymmetrical shoes made in a hurry and delivered to him just before the start, my fame among the other drivers would not have grown so quickly. Don't think of me with sadness. Know that I'm a happy man because I have fulfilled my dream: to become part of the racing world which I have always loved, to know and become friends with many drivers, to be a supplier to the Scuderia Ferrari, even to achieve a certain notoriety all over the world. Receiving so many accolades, interviews, recognitions and awards, and seeing my shoes exhibited in so many prestigious museums, working for Hollywood, and finally starring in a Porsche commercial dedicated to me. Truly, it was all beyond expectations. I'm not sad, but rather I'm ready to immerse myself in new adventures and say that I'm reborn, to allow all fans of today and tomorrow to know the story of a humble craftsman that one day invented unique racing shoes. So let's keep in touch. I love you all.
Faithfully yours, Ciccio di Cefalù
Urged by the Autodelta drivers Ignazio Giunti, Nanni Galli and Geki Russo, Francesco Liberto -shoemaker in Cefalù- creates the very first pair of shoes designed for motor racing. That first prototype will be a failure: in order to give the shoe maximum softness (but also to save on manufacturing times...), Ciccio will choose to use glue only in order to weld the various parts together, instead of sewing them. Unfortunately you had to deal with the high temperatures that develop inside the Giulia GTA. And so, during a practice lap on the Madonie before the Targa Florio, Giunti soon found himself driving with low-cut shoes in several places. After that, Ciccio's creations (regularly stitched and no longer glued, as experience has taught him...) have gradually become the favorite footwear of the most famous racing drivers.
THe very first Racing Shoes for the driver Nanni Galli, 1966
Among the many drivers who have come to Sicily to compete in the Targa Florio, there is one who most of all needs made-to-measure running shoes: Vic Elford. The British suffered the amputation of the big toe as a result of an old domestic accident. Francesco Liberto, despite being overworked, in the face of that impairment feels the moral duty to please the Porsche driver. In this way, in record time, he creates a pair of shoes that will go down in history, preparing a size 9 left and a size 7.5 right but from a 9 sole. A remarkable artisanal effort that will pay off in a big way: the following Sunday, in fact, Vic Elford, triumphing together with Umberto Maglioli at the Targa Florio, will give the Maestro from Cefalù the first of a series of great satisfactions. A legendary victory also for the history of the Targa, given that Vic managed to fill a gap of over 20 minutes to the Giunti-Galli duo, so much so that he deserved a special space inside the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart.
Vic Elford looks at his Racing Shoes at Porsche Exhibit in Stuttgart
While the star of the Targa Florio now seems to be on its way to a sad and inevitable sunset - in the impossibility of adapting the 72 km of the Madonie to the increasingly stringent standards in terms of safety -, Ciccio's growing popularity knows an unexpected and sensational confirmation: a phone call received directly from Maranello earned him the investiture of the role of official supplier of Ferrari for the drivers Niki Lauda, Clay Regazzoni and Carlos Reutemann in view of the Italian Grand Prix. The following year Niki Lauda became world champion wearing the now very famous Racing Shoes designed by Ciccio di Cefalù. It is the definitive consecration: at the end of the season, with an official publication with a personalized dedication, Enzo Ferrari himself includes Ciccio in his thanks addressed to all the technical partners who have contributed to the success of the Prancing Horse houseMay 1997
The Milanese set designer Franco Cheli, professor at the Brera Academy, organizes the exhibition "CCiccio e gli Amici di Brera" in Milan, exhibiting a series of unique Racing Shoes, characterized by hand-painted white leather uppers, interpreted by the most authoritative artists of the Brera scene.
The Exhibit "Ciccio e gli amici di Brera", 1997
The collaboration with Cheli Scenografie continued for over twenty years thanks to the passion of his son Alessandro, who took over after his father's death. Just ask Ciccio about the type of customization required to make your running shoes even more unique and exclusive.
On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the House of Maranello, during the "Tutte le Ferrari in Sicilia" tour, the procession of the Reds pays homage to Ciccio by stopping in Cefalù, right in front of his shoe shop on the seafront. On that occasion, Ferrari PR Manager Antonio Ghini gave a rather special gift: an original piston from the Ferrari V12 engine used by Michael Schumacher during the season. Ciccio reciprocates with a pair of Racing Shoes designed by Franco Cheli expressly dedicated to the German Ferrari champion.
The former Ferrari PR Antonio Ghini, pays homage to Ciccio di Cefalù
Oscar-winning director Ron Howard begins shooting Rush, the film that brings to the big screen the incredible challenge between Niki Lauda and James Hunt in the fight for the conquest of the 1976 F.1 World Championship. "Hollywood" calls Ciccio: the actor Daniel Brühl needs a pair of Racing Shoes identical to the ones Niki wore in real life.
Ron Howard 's "Rush" movie poster and Niki Lauda/Daniel Brühl during the shooting
Even today the Ciccio Racing Shoes are highly sought after, because they now represent a status symbol, the icon of that healthy, hard and pure motoring, which no longer exists but which many love and regret. Each pair of running shoes, during his more than fifty-year career, has been personally made by Ciccio Liberto, entirely by hand, "customized" taking the footprint on paper, using only top quality leathers and following precise indications from part of its loyal and extraordinary clientele.
Available in two different models, the classic ankle boots and the high ankle boot, they are made both in top quality leather and in nubuck, in any desired color, or even by combining two or more colors.
The most demanding have truly exclusive shoes with personalized uppers, to make their pair of shoes absolutely unique, with a logo, a face, or even a car painted directly on the upper, thanks to the ten-year collaboration with Studio Cheli of Brera.