After London and Coventry, it was on to Italy! I was last in Italy in 2010 at the WSK Master Series round held in Siena and I remember taking a train all the way out to Rome and walking the empty streets in the wee hours of the morning. On another occasion in 2009, I visited Vatican City, Rome, Florence, Venice and Pisa (amid other countries) on a two-week 10-country Europe vacation.
This time, it was to another part of Italy – Turin!
Turin, otherwise referred to as Torino in Italian, used to be a major European political centre and was Italy’s first capital city in 1861, home to the House of Savoy, Italy’s royal family. That explains why there is a palace, museum, church or statue round almost every corner.
Palazza Reale (Royal Palace)
Italy is characterised for its narrow roads and endless streams of little cars like the Fiat 500, zipping around and squeezing into tight spaces between cars.
A lot of the streets were one-way, so it was probably faster to walk the city than to try driving around it. The weather was cool and it wasn’t as cold as London was, so one jacket was all I needed! I did a lot of walking in Turin, enjoying the pebbled ground which worked my feet hard to place them well so I don’t twist my ankle on the uneven ground.
Turin lost much of its political significance and importance by World War II and became a major European crossroad for industry, commerce and trade. It is currently one of Italy’s main industrial centres, being part of the famous “industrial triangle” along with Milan and Genoa. Turin is ranked third in Italy, after Rome and Milan, for economic strength.
I stayed near Piazza Castello and I walked through the square grounds every day (and night) I was there.
The sun only sets at about 9pm there…
… and for some reason I don’t usually feel hungry for dinner until the sun starts to go down, so dinner was either a late affair or a complete miss altogether.
On my first night there, I had the map in hand and was only planning to walk around the main area of Piazza Castello and its surrounding attractions, but I ended up walking the entire evening, for four hours, till night fell.
Italians are known for being great lovers and they are not shy to express their deep-felt emotions for each other in the open, in full view of the public eye.
The night was pretty short and the sun rises at about 6am, slowly warming up the city of Turin as I sleepily rush out of my room in my pyjamas to the common balcony at the topmost level of the hotel to try and capture its first rays of the day.
You know how I always have such an eye for all things vroom, pink, bling or Hello Kitty right? Look what I found in the supermarket!
There was one place in Turin that I absolutely had to go, putting it on the top of my must-see, must-go, must-do list – a visit to the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile!
Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile (National Automobile Museum) is named after Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia, and has a collection of about 200 cars from 80 automobile brands across eight countries (Italy, France, Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Spain, United States of America, Poland), dating back to the 18th century.
The three-storey building it is in dates back to 1960, but a three-year restructuring that ended in 2011 gave it a revamped look and its exhibition area has also expanded from 11,000 square metres (120,000 sq ft) to 19,000 square metres (200,000 sq ft).
The visit starts on the third floor, where the story begins with the evolution of the motor car, the social themes linked to it, and then its transformation from a means of transport to a symbol of status and how design has evolved in today’s contemporary times.
Here are some vehicles that were on display:
France, Fine XVII secolo
French carriage – a four-wheeled horse drawn private passenger vehicle with leaf springs
CARRO DI CUGNOT
Steamer, 2 upright cylinders, 50,000cc engine, 4km/h max speed, 4 tonnes weight
3.5HP Italia 1896
Rear-engine 1-flat cylinder, 624cc, max 3.4 bhp at 800rpm, three-speed gearbox, 35-40km/h max speed, 270kg weight
4-cylinder two-piece block, 3,768cc, max 16bhp at 1,200rpm, chain drive, 75km/h max speed, 1,220kg weight
CITROEN 2 CV AZ
2-cylinder front engine, 425cc, max 12bhp at 3,500rpm, 65km/h max speed, 556kg weight
SYRENA L 105
3 vertical cylinders in line, front engine, 842cc, max 40bhp at 4,300rpm, 120km/h max speed, front-wheel drive
FIAT Ecobasic Italia 2000
4-cylinder common rail, 1,200cc, max 61bhp at 3,500rpm, max speed 160km/h, turbo diesel
1969 Bertone Runabout
Presented in 1969 at the Turin Motor Show, the Runabout’s style was inspired by a unique segment of design: the boat industry. The Runabout concept was influenced by the speedboat racing of the late sixties. The prototype was used as a basis for future development of the Lancio Stratos rally car and the Fiat X1/9, which was presented a few years later. The engine is from the Fiat 128, although the car is presented with the Autobianchi brand. Its style is characterised by a wedge profile, a large roll bar on which the headlamps are mounted and the striking colour scheme.
2003 BMW Birusa
The Bertone Birusa is a concept car that reinterprets a theme which is part of the company’s genetic code: the most elegant, dynamic embodiment possible of the Italian sports car, an exclusive object and the source of supremely enjoyable driving. The Birusa gives us an idea of how a typical interpretation of the high performance GT car (front engine, rear drive, two seats) could evolve stylistically in the near future. In structural terms, this concept borrows the aluminium chassis and engineering of the BMW Z8, with a 400bhp V8 engine and 6-speed manual gearbox. This design choice is also reflected in the interpretation of certain design details that are typical of BMW brand identity.
1968 Alfa Romeo Carabo
The Carabo debuted at the Paris Motor Show in 1968, shocking the public and critics with its irreverent style: wedge line, headlamps housed in a specific place protected by slats, large elytron doors as the wings of the beetle (from where comes the name of Carabo), to facilitate access to a car of only 99cm high. The Carabo has the mechanics of Alfa Romeo 33/2 Stradale: 1955cc V8 engine of 230bhp central position, chassis with tubular frame with steel reinforcements. Absolute performance, with top speed over 260km/h.
There was also a dedicated section to motorsports and some history..
What I also liked were some concepts that they had! Check out this police station which hunts non-street legal cars:
Funky road signs…
Cute window displays..
An entire section was done up like a motor-inspired home (which I will blog about separately) using various parts of vehicles to design their home!
Aside from these, there is a lot more I wish I could show you! The rest of my photos are here, but if you could, do make a trip down to this museum if you are in Turin. Totally worth seeing!
To get to the museum, I took the underground train out to Lingotto station, which coincidentally has the Lingotto building on Via Niazza that was once a FIAT automobile factory. Italian carmaker FIAT is based in Turin and the name FIAT actually stands for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, which means Italian Automobile (manu)Factory Turin.
Construction for this former FIAT factory started in 1916 and the building opened in 1923. The design was unusual as it had five floors, with raw materials entering at the ground floor, cars built on a line that went up through the building and finally, the finished cars emerged at the rooftop level where there was a rooftop test track.
It was the largest car factory in the world at that time and 80 different models of car were produced there in its lifetime, including the famous Fiat Topolino of 1936. However, the factory became outdated in the 1970s and it was shut down in 1982. The factory has since been rebuilt into a modern complex, with concert halls, a theatre, convention centre, shopping arcades and a hotel.
Right across the museum front is part of the Po River, which runs through Turin..
Two full days to walk Turin and explore it, was enough for me, but definitely not enough to visit every single statue, church, museum, palace it has. It was on to the Sparco headquarters next!
Sparco’s main office is in Volpiano, about a 15-minute drive from the city centre of Turin. There are two facilities of Sparco in Turin – one with the main offices and the customised suit production, the other for the carbon composite factory that manufactures carbon fibre parts for cars. One more production facility is in Tunisia.
It was a few days to the summer holidays when I visited, so the place was pretty quiet with not much activity going on. Many of the staff members have already gone on their summer break. Already it was quite the ghost town there, yet I encountered a coincidence! Just as I was going on my tour of the main building, guess whose suits were in the end stage of production?
Some boys who are active karters and racers in Singapore!
What are the odds right? Had I walked in half hour later, they would have packed away this order and I wouldn’t have seen it! The whole Veritas Racing Team’s suits were being neatly folded and packed for delivery.
The carbon composite facility is a very busy place and I understand that they do not go for summer vacation! Due to confidential non-disclosure agreements that Sparco has with the car manufacturers it builds parts for, I wasn’t allowed to take much photos. I wish you could see it for yourself – all the carbon fibre frames and parts that go into high end luxury cars… *yums*
Sparco launched their own fashion line last year - We’re talking lifestyle wear like button-up shirts, jeans, skirts, bermudas and the sort.
These can be found at their retail boutique at Mondo Vicino Outlet Village.
They call it a temporary outlet because the plan is to only have it for a year to see how the launch of this lifestyle street wear goes. More photos of the Sparco boutique can be found here.
Singaporeans, want any Sparco items? Contact DWA Lubricants Pte Ltd, authorised distributor for Sparco, for enquiries! (Email Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Italians seriously eat A LOT of pizza and pasta, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. I was amazed at how they could finish one whole pizza each! According to Andrea of Sparco, he said the crust of their pizza is very thin so it isn’t as filling as what we would think. Thin crust or not, I couldn’t eat beyond two pieces at one sitting. By the way, look what I found on my bruschetta antipasti dish…
For the first time in my life, I also saw a Carrefour refueling station. I thought they were only hypermarts! You know their lowest price guarantee? They apply it to their refueling campaigns too! Fuel there is quite expensive – about SGD 3 per litre…
Thank you Andrea for showing us around Sparco!
I was feeling bummed out the day in Turin as I suffered a bout of mild food poisoning the night before and visited the toilet a couple of times. I suspect it was the mouthful of tap water I drank from the tap at the hotel. I KNOW I KNOW, as a frequent traveller that is a risk that I shouldn’t even consider taking because of all the unknown bacteria that might be manifested.
It didn’t help that I had to endure that as I shuttled from Turin to London then back to Singapore before Scooting off to Sydney within a duration of less than 24 hours.
This was my last sight of Turin – beautiful Italian alps!
Thankfully I got a complimentary upgrade on SQ to Business Class, so I could rest proper from London to Singapore.
What was I in Sydney for?
WORLD TIME ATTACK CHALLENGE! Stay tuned for my postcard from Sydney..
View here for more photos of my Turin trip.
View here for more photos of my visit to Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile.
Visit here for more photos of the Sparco boutique.