When I first heard of Torino, I was told that it was called “the Detroit of Italy.” This wasn’t exactly a draw. I’d never even thought that much about cars before. And besides which, I wasn’t so fond of Detroit.
But when I moved here, I was pleasantly surprised. Torino was nothing like Detroit! True, Fiat is based here, thus the association with cars. But unlike Detroit (unless Chryler’s acquisition of Fiat changes things), people come to Torino from all over the world to learn car design.
At any rate, I soon I realized that I liked cars. It may have started with Mini-Coopers, like the one on our street that has a British flag on the top. Or the Smartcars, which people parked on the street corners where there was no real parking space, or even sideways in a parallel spot.
Or maybe it was the car parade that started it. One morning last fall, Sarie and I were walking to church when we saw an old-timey car drive by, one with a literal wooden “trunk” on the back. The men riding in it were dressed like characters from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, wearing wool caps and goggles. Later, as we walked home from church, we found an entire exhibit of cars on Via Roma (sort of the Madison Avenue of Torino). As we walked among them, they began to line up for a parade. I never liked parades before, either. But this one was charming! After the parade, the cars all parked along Via Po, by the river. There we spent an hour or more examining all the cars and taking photos.
Cars from last fall’s car parade. Frankly, I don’t know what most of them are, except that they are almost all Italian. But I know the one on the bottom is a Tesla, an electric car.
Then last summer, we took some friends to the Museo dell’Automobile, or car museum. The museum told the history of automobiles from steam power vehicles that a person could easily out-walk (about 2 mph), to the latest cars built to break speed records (currently 763 mph). I liked the creative design of the exhibit space, and that in turn made me appreciate the design of the cars.
Economic conditions after World War II created a dichotomy in car design between Europe and the US. There was a blossoming of innovative small cars in Europe, including one that opened at the front! At the same time, cars in the US were getting bigger and bigger, and growing fins. One of my favorite European car models in the museum was the Cisitalia from the late 1940s to early 50s. (My photos of these didn’t turn out so well, but you can see them in this link.) Many modern car designers are also fond of the Citroen ID 19 series (the car below that looks like it’s flying).
Below are a couple of cars from the streets of Torino. My favorite cars that I see on the streets are the tiny ones (Italians must like them too, since mi Amore means my Love), but occasionally I’ll see a very attractive sports car. Ironically, we are carless for the time being, since none of us has an Italian license yet. Once we finally get licenses and buy or lease a car, we’ll probably choose something practical. But at the very least, I’ve discovered another aspect of Italian design. Viva la macchina italiana!
Photo credit on this last car goes to my friend Sinming, who came to visit us last weekend! Her family went to the car museum, too, and that’s what inspired me to write this post.