In Memory of The Shoemaker of the Champions

Francesco Liberto, "Ciccio di Cefalù"

*19.02.1936 †01.01.2023



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



Addio a Francesco “Ciccio” Liberto, il calzolaio dei piloti di Formula 1. Il sindaco Tumminello ha fatto sapere che Cefalù onorerà la memoria del "suo" calzolaio



Morto Ciccio di Cefalù, sue le scarpe da corsa di Lauda. Francesco Liberto aveva 87 anni. Aveva fabbricato le scarpe che salvarono i piedi dell'austriaco dal rogo del 1977. Le sue creazioni anche per Schumacher, Ickx, Fittipaldi, Arnoux



A 87 anni è scomparso in Sicilia l’artigiano che nel 1967 ideò le scarpe da corsa indossate da Lauda, Andretti, Fittipaldi, Regazzoni ed Elford. Il riconoscimento Unesco e le opere esposte nei musei Moma, Ferrari e Porsche


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

September 1976
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 houseNIKI-77 copiaMay 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.

November 1997
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.

omaggio ferrari

The former Ferrari PR Antonio Ghini, pays homage to Ciccio di Cefalù

January 2011

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.




Francesco Liberto was born in Cefalù, in the province of Palermo, on February 19, 1936, to a large and humble family. The loss of his father when he was just 8 years old and the harsh social environment of 1940s Sicily soon led him to have to contribute, still very young, to the sustenance of the family. It will be his paternal uncle, a cobbler by profession, who will introduce him to the shop from a very young age, to make him learn the secrets of a trade that the young "Ciccio" will be able to transform it into an art. Mother nature, fortunately, endowed him with an uncommon, innate, and contagious charge of sympathy, and a marked predisposition for social relationships, qualities that will prove to be vital in his professional career, to the point of projecting him from the miserable family shop to the media spotlight around the world. Tempting opportunities are not long in coming: post-war Cefalù constitutes a very different place compared to any fishing village of that century and is destined to increase its fame in the world as one of the most enchanting tourist resorts in the Mediterranean Sea. And thus, the young Francesco owes his fortune especially to the intuition of making personalized leather sandals for tourists. The fashion "guru" Mila Contini and the tireless cultural animator Pepita Misuraca will be the first people to understand and enhance his creative qualities by introducing him, in the mid-60s, into the “high society”of Cefalù, which at the time revolved around at the Club Magique (later known as Club Mediterranée). His leather sandals begin to experience some success, so much so that Ciccio sets up a small atelier for a while. He expands the range of his exclusive creations: the so-called ''Muccaturi'', light and colorful patchwork boots, are well known and appreciated by tourists from all over the world, supported by the effective notoriety that comes from articles published on the main newspapers and in fashion magazines. In 1969 he was awarded the SAMIA Cup during the "Moda Mare a Cefalù" ( tr: Sea Fashion at Cefalù), a top-level seasonal event. The real turning point in Francesco Liberto's career came at the end of the sixties, when Ciccio's fame bonded with Targa Florio, the oldest race in the world. Already included in the calendar of the World Sports Prototype Championship, at the time this competition was more important and more followed than Formula One itself. Since 1906, every spring the racing world has met on the slopes of the Madonie to continue the myth of speed. The difficulty developing extremely complex cars and memorizing a track with over ten thousand curves scattered along 72 km of mountain roads forced the teams to arrive in Sicily as early as they can to the race. Cefalù, with its hotels and connections, represents the natural headquarters of all the teams. To dream is a luxury that can be granted to everyone, let alone a lively boy like our Ciccio. Like many kids his age, Francesco tries to fit into that fascinating and irresistible environment in his spare time. Meeting the drivers at the entrance of the hotels or in the bars and restaurants they frequent is certainly not difficult, having a chat with them during the frequent work breaks is just as easy. Our Ciccio begins to bond with the young Autodelta’s drivers, like Ignazio Giunti, Nanni Galli and Geki Russo. Ignazio himself, during a dinner in a very popular pizzeria at the time, the “Eucaliptus” (tr: Eucalyptus), asks Ciccio, almost as a joke, to make him a pair of racing shoes. Our hero, logically, has no experience on how they should be, what characteristics they should have, and what is needed to make them. Thus, the three drivers suggested what their ideal shoes should be like: light, soft, comfortable, and, more importantly, with a very thin sole, to convey the best sensitivity to the drivers’ feet. In the spring of 1966 Ciccio crafted his first pair of racing shoes, which represented for him the beginning of a new artistic and professional career. Since then the greatest deivers worldwide have chosen and still choose the racing shoes of the "Cefalù shoemaker" because they are strictly custom made, light, comfortable, and more importantly, unique in the world. Even when Targa Florio ended, at the end of the 70s, because of safety reasons, Ciccio becomes for a while the official Ferrari supplier in Formula 1. In 1977 Niki Lauda became world champion wearing the shoes of the Sicilian master. This is just to give an example. Many of Ciccio's shoes have trod the podium of the most important competitions in the world, on the drivers’ feet like Vic Elford, Mario Andretti, Brian Redman, Ignazio Giunti, Carlos Reutemann, Gijs Van Lennep, Clay Regazzoni, Jo Siffert, Jacky Ickx , Renè Arnoux, Jacques Laffitte, Gerard Larousse, Auturo Merzario, Sandro Munari, Bernard Darniche, and last but not least the Sicilian Nino Vaccarella. In the 1980s Regazzoni sent him a simple postcard from Tokyo: "I need a pair of red and white shoes!". The address was only: "Ciccio, Cefalù - Italy." The letter arrived straight to the addressee. And the shoes too were immediately ready, of course…. Even today Ciccio is remembered all over the world not just for his racing shoes, but also for his great humanity which makes him a true legend. His creations are exhibited in museums, from the Ferrari’s in Maranello to the Porsche one in Stuttgart; from that of the Rossetti brothers, near Milan, to the Romans Museum in France, to the Deutsches Ledermuseum in Germany. All the most important motoring newspapers and the biggest television stations frequently devote large spaces to the famous "pilots' shoemaker". Even if Ciccio's shoes are no longer FIA-approved, many drivers and racing car enthusiasts from all over the world continue to use his Racing Shoes, because they are truly unique, soft, comfortable, light, and can also be used for sporty driving. No one wants to give up shoes with the "Ciccio Cefalù - Sicilia" brand. For all the enthusiasts who visited him every day, in his museum shop on the seafront, he always had a thousand anecdotes to tell. For those who have not had the good fortune to know him in person, it is difficult to give an idea of his extraordinary humanity. The house of the Prancing Horse has often paid homage to him, such as when, in November 1997, the procession of “Rosse” from "All the Ferraris in Sicily" stopped right in front of his shop on the Cefalù seafront. On that occasion, the managers of Maranello gave him a rather singular gift: an authentic piston taken from Michael Schumacher's engine: and he reciprocated by giving the German champion a pair of custom made Racing Shoes. Ciccio, during his fifty-year career, has created thousands of shoes customized in size, color, and leather. The most beautiful and exclusive models are those customized by Franco Cheli, the set designer at the Brera Academy who organized the "Ciccio e gli Amici di Brera" exhibition in Milan in 1997, hand-painting the leather uppers on motoring themes from Ciccio. The collaboration with Cheli Scenografie then continued, thanks to the mastery of Alessandro Cheli, who took over from his father: you just needed ask Ciccio for the type of customization (a logo, a brand, a car, or even the face of a driver) to have your own shoes, even more unique and exclusive. In addition to his memories, his extraordinary affability and the mastery of a great craftsman are the qualities that have rightfully made him a special place both in the history of footwear and in that of motor racing. Goodbye Ciccio


Racing Drivers
Years of victories


I want to recall the unpredictable events of the 1977 world championship which recorded the affirmation of the most competitive car and a great driver. A recognition that must be shared with all those, such as the famous shoemaker Ciccio of Cefalù, who have followed the competitive activity of our team. My thanks go to all of you suppliers.


November, 1977
One day I met this brilliant and likeable Sicilian boy, and so out of curiosity I asked him: "Ciccio, what's your job?" When he replied that he was a craftsman and made custom-made shoes, I had an idea: "Why don't you make a pair of shoes for racing drivers?" Thus was born the first pair of Racing Shoes designed by Ciccio di Cefalù.


Racing Driver
I absolutely needed a pair of custom made shoes. Ciccio there and then told me that he was overworked, but when he saw my foot without a big toe, the result of an old domestic accident, he immediately set to work. The day after, on the Targa Florio podium, I wanted to dedicate the victory to him. Without his shoes I would never have been able to win on those hellish roads.


Racing Driver
Ciccio di Cefalù is an authentic legend. He was the first ever to make custom running shoes for riders. I still wear them today, when I participate in a motorsport event. It's really fascinating to go into his shop and see all those footprints of prestigious pilots, known all over the world.


Racing Driver


Lungomare Giuseppe Giardina, 21, 90015 Cefalù (PA)