TRAVEL

PIT STOP TORINO: Doubletree Lingotto and FIAT Factory

The FIAT rooftop racetrack. Photo credit: Gilbert Sopakuwa

Torino is not the Italy you expect. It’s a rectilinear lines make make it the kind of city always ready for a street race, thanks to industrialist Giovanni Agnelli. Local boy gone big, Agnelli transformed the small town into the headquarters of an incredible automobile empire. And then in 1923, Agnelli put Torino into 5th gear when he opened the game-changing FIAT factory, the biggest automobile manufacturing structure in the world at the time, and the most beautiful example of Rationalist architecture - streamlined, functional and futuristic. The FIAT factory and headquarters oversaw saw every aspect of car production - from the assemblage of components and construction on the lower levels to midlevels of administration to its rooftop track where the final product - from the very first FIAT 500 Toppling to the roadster Pininfarina- would rev its engine on a kilometer-long oval test track. Connecting every level was an internal ramp leading from the roof to ground level (and vice versa) so that once approved, the car could literally drive out onto the streets of Torino.

One of the most impressive sights in industry....
— Le Corbusier

Technology eventually overtook hand-production, and by 1982, the FIAT factory closed the factory doors for a bigger, better location. But after almost 60 years, the FIAT factory was more than just a city landmark, it was an international emblem for industrialization and Torino’s innate entrepreneurial attitude which is why architect Renzo Piano pitched a renovation plan that would not just update the historic structure but return its contemporary relevance. Piano transformed its halls into a centro commercial (a mall center) and then he did something more….

Renzo Piano recreates the lines of the former FIAT HQ in the Doubletree’s lounge. Photo: Erica Firpo

Welcome to the DoubleTree Lingotto, a beautiful glass rectangle of a hotel designed by Piano who’s main source of inspiration was the adjacent FIAT factory. Opened in 2018, the DoubleTree Lingotto may not be in the most gamine neighborhood of Torino- but then again, Lingotto is neighborhood true to Torino’s DNA. And thanks to Agnelli and Piano, Lingotto is a destination for architecture and automotive fans.

Piano seeming dropped a vertical rectangle of stacked glass right now to FIAT, and his glass box is simple, framed just like the FIAT building next door. 142 rooms surround a large glass atrium- which is best enjoyed standing in one of the three glass elevators that haul you up all three floors, reminiscent of factory lifts. The rooms are large and luminous with three-meeter-high ceiling to floor glass windows- designed with wood paneling and dark blue leather. Slick, futuristic and function- 21st century rationalism at its very best.

If you ask nicely. . .

. . . you’ll be handed a small red key which gives you personal access to elevator to the FIAT rooftop track. Since the doors to the mall open early and I wanted that sunrise shot, I entered a desolate and some post-apocalyptic looking mall at 6:30am eventually making my way to roof. It was more than I expected, even if Torino reminded me that sunrise can also mean a rainbow of greys.

Those curves, and just peeking over the crest is Pinacoteca Agnelli (Renzo Piano, 2002).. Photo by Erica Firpo.

The ramp leading up to the rooftop. Photo: Erica Firpo

The ramp leading up to the rooftop. Photo: Erica Firpo

Looking up. Photo: Erica Firpo

Race through the streets of 1960s Torino and around the FIAT track with Michael Caine and Mini Coopers (??!!) in The Italian Job, 1969.

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Rome is my city and I always find there is something to waiting for me, if I just have a little patience.  Priests gesticulating at Caffe Sant'Eustachio, a pretty bell tower in Palazzo Taverna, the Corsa dei Santi passing my house and heading to St. Peter's square.   Atmosphere is always important-- late evening with the Lacoon is the best time for the Vatican museums, a medieval courtyard with contemporary art, and an ersatz fashion with dresses by Antonio Riva.  A big dish of tajarin (taglierini) al tartufo from the lovely ladies of Ca' del Lupo,  hanging out in Barolo and stumbling across the Capella del Barolo, a beautiful chapel painted in 1997 by Sol LeWitt (exterior) and David Tremlett (interior), for the Ceretto family.