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Published: November 27th 2019
Fiat Lingotto Factory
Ramps leading to the test track on the roof
London Stansted was the usual early morning nightmare. It had been a tortuous journey down in the small hours. The ongoing project, that is the alleged improvement of the A14, was in full swing. You have to think somebody has got this contract very wrong. How can such a short stretch of new road cause so much misery? Why has it taken so long? Today, there was a new complication. If it isn't enough to close the road, the site office had sought to amuse themselves by deploying incorrect diversion signs. East is East. West is West. Tonight, East and West were the same direction. Drivers circled in confusion. It was only because the HGV trucks found a way out of the maze, that we eventually rejoined the main carriageway and headed on to the M11. After the detour, we arrived at the airport in good time. The rain had pelted down throughout the night and reaching the terminal from the short Stay car park involved ducking from available cover to cover. The sheer volume of early flight departures caused huge backlogs at security..... don't leave it late. It is normally the Man in the Middle who encounters issues with the
security at airports. My "hair" apparently triggered the body scanner, which is a surprise given there is precious little left on top ...... and certainly not enough to hide an object considered a threat to aeronautical security. We landed in Turin on time. It wasn't raining there, but little did we know that was going be a short respite break from the wet stuff.
The airport bus was 12€ return from the machine directly facing you in arrivals. A sign optimistically stated that the boarding point was 10 metres. A 100 metres might have been closer. The man in charge of the "0" at the sign factory must have gone to lunch early. The low cloud had masked the scenic vistas of Torino Airport. The nearby snow covered Alps were invisible. There was nothing in particular to see on the way to the city centre. The Allianz Stadium - home of the small team in town - came into view down a side street. We alighted in Piazza Carlo Felice in front of the main Porta Nuova railway station in about an hour - 10 minutes longer than the timetable. It would still transpire to the most efficient local
transport of the day. There was a choice of either tram or metro to get us down near the hotel in the southern suburb of Lingotto. We opted for the metro, purely because it was easier to buy a 3 day ticket from the machines. The 10€ tickets in the bag, an announcement in both Italian and English advised the section of metro line was closed. We assumed a security issue and everybody was ushered outside before we made the ticket barriers. We headed across to the tram stop, which was understandably busy. We waited. A real time electronic display suggested an imminent tram, but nothing appeared. We waited some more. The other waiting passengers looked unconcerned by the lack of transport. A few drifted away. A succession of trams went past in the other direction, but still no activity towards Lingotto. We walked back into the metro, where life was now apparent. It was a false dawn. The Man in the Middle remained outside the barriers, as his 3 day ticket steadfastly refused to open them. It was not a good start! We had been in the vicinity approximately an hour and had gone nowhere. We now had a
malfunctioning ticket, no sign of any staff offering assistance, a poor command of Italian and a distinct lack of any transport anyway. The information hub opposite the main railway station entrance provided our salvation. There was no security issue. It was a strike. They highlighted that the ticket issue would best be solved at the GTT local transport company office in the main station building. We followed the instructions and duly locates the relevant office near Platform 20. Fortunately, they were still working. The member of staff charged with the English speaking punters confirmed the strike. "This is normal", he smiled. "You are in Italy. There is a strike every month". There was apparently so e public transport between noon and 3 pm, but after that "you will be lucky". A 5 minute conference ensued between our man and the boss, before a new ticket was handed over. It was valid, but of limited value for the rest of the day once we had checked in the hotel. We went back to the tram stop and our patience was rewarded. We located the hotel, checked in and decided on staying within walking distance of base for the remainder of the
day. I actually checked later and found a website that acts as an official guide to all strikes across Italy. We think back to the Winter of Discontent and the like, but Italians seem to be discontented on a weekly, if not daily, basis. What were they striking for? The irony was nobody knew or they no interest anyway. Life moves on with a shrug of the shoulders. As the man said, this is Italy!
The first port of call was the Torino Football Club training ground at their old New Filadelfia stadium. It was only a few streets away. The players were not in evidence and probably resting up on advance of their big game against Inter Milan tomorrow. The gates on the outer perimeter were wide open. A line of pillars listed the achievements of the club over the years. There was a hint of the Roman colleseum about the design - all with a strong flavour of the club colour of Granata. The pillars marked the Serie A league titles - 1928, 1943, 1947 1948, 1949 and 1976. There was a special tribute to the "scudetto" winning team of 1949. They were all killed in a
plane crash, as the aircraft carrying the team back from a match in Portugal ploughed in the hillside outside the city on the approach to Turin Airport. The Superga disaster as it was known, wiped out an entire team that would have probably gone on to add more titles to their collection. The crash is to Italian football what Munich 1958 is to Manchester United and English football. There are still traces of the old stadium in which Torino achieved their success, but a new 4000 seat main stand now dominates and is used for the fans when the club choose to make their training sessions open to the public ( as they do in the early parts of most weeks). The Granata colour again dominates. The Serie A titles are listed above the main entrance under a large Torino club emblem, along with the Coppa Italia triumphs from 1936, 1943, 1968, 1971 and 1993. The Man in the Middle, keen to add to his Nottingham Forest Around The World appearances, was soon sporting his red shirt ready for the photo shoot. The "likes" would later roll in. The Fildefia was demoted from use, as the team moved of to
the Stadio Communale in 1965. After the team moved on to the Stadio Communale, Filadelfia was left to decay. The condition became so bad that demolition followed in
However in both corners, the remains of a section of the old terracing can be seen as a reminder of the past. Two of the old ticket windows remain under the terracing - forever closed. The training base is overlooked by the block of flats on two sides and a frame structure grows from each of these sides. The frame transpires to support some overlarge roller blinds, which can be dropped to keep out prying eyes when tactics and set pieces are being practiced in the tun up to a game. The spies of Mr Bielsa's Leeds United would have their work cut out here. The ground remains synonymous with the successful period of "Granata". The passion for history satisfied, we walked a few blocks north to the current stadium.
Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino is more grand in it's title, than the reality. The stadium was renovated for the 2006 Winter Olympics and used for the Opening and Closing Ceremony. The exposed steelwork on the high tier is showing no
Fiat Lingotto Factory
.... test track on the roof
sign of that makeover and the rusting beams give off an overall scruffy appearance. If I was being cruel, it was a reminder of the bodywork of a 1970s Italian motor. The stadium exterior is drab and concrete and with little sign of life host club affiliation. A few Suzuki emblems in Granata colour and that is about your lot. We walked a full circuit in a bid to have a look inside, but a few open entrances give access only to an office or a gym business housed under the stand. The away end was fortified with steel panels on approach, so that the visiting ultras would not be able to see their opposite numbers through a divide. We crossed the threshold of a vehicle entrance only to attract the attention of a security guy. He wagged his finger and gesticulated for us to get lost, when I held up a camera to mark our innocent intentions. The stadium originally dates from 1932 - an era when the fascists were in political power. It was originally named after Il Duce himself.... the Stadio Municipale Benito Mussolini. The title was hurriedly changed when the tide turned against Muussolini in 1944.
Fiat Lingotto Factory
Ramps leading to the test track on the roof
A huge column, much favoured in the architectural style of the day, is still attached dominates the north end to the sports complex.
The large building on the Southside of the railway tracks is another icon of the past. We crossed the Passerella Olympico Bridge, which links Piazza Galimberti to the area. It was another creation for the 2006 Winter Olympics to ease the flow of people between the stadium and the brand new metro link between the city centre and Lingotto. A huge orange arch is suspended to support the footbridge leading between the two points. I guess on a different day, the colour would stand out in the sunshine. The building it leads to immense. Turin is the home of Fiat - the Italian motor group now part of the Chrysler world empire. The main production these days is centred at their Miafiori base north west of our current location, but the Lingotto factory is their most famous home. At its peak, over 10,000 workers plied the production line. Work started to build the factory in 1916. The sheer size is impressive. Four storeys high. Huge windows. A grand modernist entrance. The gem sits on the roof.
Fiat built their very own test track with banked curving at each end. Cars rolled off the production line for a circuit high above the streets of Turin. The ramps used to get the cars up there remain visible at the end of the building. The factory eventually closed in 1982. The last car to roll off the production line was apparently a Lancia Delta in 1979. The test track was immortalised in the Michael Caine film, The Italian Job. Mini Coopers raced round the roof, pursued by some of the Italians finest law enforcement bots. Today, the complex is part offices, part shopping centre and part historic monument. The conversion from car factory to multi functional space was overseen by the same architect who designed the Shard in London. We followed the red direction signs on the floor to the museum, which sits atop of the factory and houses the private art collection of the Fiat bosses. It is officially the "Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli". The museum houses a small number of paintings from the Agnelli collection in a huge pod perched on the roof. Of course, we weren't here for the Picassos and Matisse paintings. The entry
to the museum is the only way to access the test track and scene of the film. We reluctantly paid our €12. Alas there was a special exhibition on too so we were relieved of the additional 4€. The views over to the Alps were obscured by the low cloud, so we contented ourselves with the track itself. It was a small price to pay to get up there.
The transport strike scuppered any plans of heading into the city and the light was fading fast. We walked back over the bridge to Galimberti in search of Captain Correlli beer at the right price and some food. The rain began to steadily fall, as we dined. It had been a long day.
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