So today is all about cars, and although I never thought I’d hear myself say this, all I can think about it Fiat. So I’m up and out of the hotel and straight to the Tobacconist to buy a Metro ticket, and it’s off to the underground I go.
Now sad as it may be, I’m starting to develop a liking for underground systems – or rather the differences between them. For instance, London’s tube is the oldest in the world at 150 years, yet it’s stood the test of time pretty well and still blows my mind as a feat of engineering genius. Just look at Westminster station, or the cross section of Oxford Circus… Then in contrast, you have Budapest – another of the oldest and some of it looks no different now to how it did 100 years ago – rickety old carriages, slow trains, a health & safety nightmare, but entirely functional and a perfectly adequate means of getting from one side of the city to the other. Then at the other end of the scale you have Honkers – meticulously efficient, clean and hi tech.
Torino is a little different. To start with, you can’t really get lost – there’s only one line. And it doesn’t go into the city centre. Instead it runs from Lingotto in the south, up to Porto Nuevo (the city’s southern station) before skirting round the south west of the centre then back out to the south west…? Overground there are busses and trams which seem to drive as erratically as the minis – over cobbles which I keep thinking are pavements *beep beep* and on pavements which I think are out of bounds (literally, under the arches as they did in the movie). There’s little logic in the central palazzas, so I just look and run! Is jaywalking a crime in Italy? Moving swiftly on…
So I wander down to Porto Nuevo and descend into the Metro. Lingotto is clearly marked (Treni a Lingotto) and what I find actually looks brand new – didn’t expect that? The trains are like the cars in the original Total Recall movie – big deep windows at the front, no driver, and you can look where you’re going. The tunnels are wide, with tracks in both directions and the platforms run the full length of the line, so you could, technically, walk from one station to the next. It’s smooth and simple and I arrive at Lingotto in minutes. Not that exciting to explore, but does the job.
It really is that simple!
As I arise from the Metro, the sky is still bright blue and I’m presented with the familiar sight of the Fiat factory – yay! I walk (quickly, excitedly) across the road and up the escalator into what is now a shopping complex, complete with cinema at one end and an NH Hotel in the middle. Inside is a long mall, with shops and restaurants up and down both sides. But there’s no mention of Fiat, no mention of minis and not a Michael Caine poster in sight? Right, so where do I go? How do I get up there?
I figure the person who’s bound to know (if nothing else, from the hundreds of tourists like me who come on this pilgrimage of epic British automotive and movie heritage) is the hotel concierge. So I trot back down the escalator (yes, literally) and round to the hotel. When I relay my oh-so-handy Italian line of mi no parlo Italiano and ask Luigi if he parla Inglesi? He responds but of course and I’m on my way. I ask if it’s possible to get on the roof, expecting a sigh and potential annoyance in return, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Luigi simply replies Yes, you want to go now? To which I nod like a child at Christmas. He rummages in a drawer and produces a yale key on a lanyard and hands it over. Go back up the escalator, across the hall, into the service elevator, up to the 4th floor, and this key will unlock the door out onto the roof. Really? It’s that simple? He doesn’t know me from Adam, yet he’s entrusting such treasure into my possession? I don’t question it; I simply thank him and scuttle off back up the escalator and into the service elevator. It’s all a bit rickety, and when I exit on the 4th floor, I wonder if anyone’s actually been up here in the 24 years since the factory closed, as there’s little more to look at than dust, a couple of brooms and a fire extinguisher. I walk over to the door and put the key in the lock, still not quite believing where I am or what I’m about to see.
The key turns, I open the door and suddenly I’m faced with one of the most awesome views ever. I’m looking out over Turin, towards a horizon of snow-capped mountains, against a backdrop of bright blue sky. (I’ve never been skiing, but for those who have, I guess this is the equivalent of that first view you got from the top on your first skiing trip?) I draw breath, the turn round to see the banked curve at the end of the roof. Wow. This is just so cool – for those who’ve never watched the movie, it’ll mean nothing. But for those who have, it feels like I’m on a film set from 40 years ago, which has been left just as it was. There’s no new tarmac, there’s weeds growing around the edges, the only sad addition is speed bumps (I kid you not, flipping speed bumps! Clarkson would do his nut!)
Having a moment – another one!
Of all the crazy incredible things I’ve been lucky enough to do over the past few years, I think this is one of the most personal. Simon would’ve loved to go to Australia or New Zealand (he’d probably have passed on Honkers, don’t see that being his thing really) but he’d have given his right arm to come here. If I’m honest, had he still been here, it probably wouldn’t have held such significance for me to come (because I’d have left him to do it). But because he’s not here, I feel like I’m doing it for him? The whole time I’ve been in Turin, I’ve had a little devil sitting on my shoulder whistling This is the self-preservation society… and this is the culmination of all that emotion. I Skype mum and dad so they can see what I’m seeing and share the emotion. I’m not really sure if they get it; they sure know it’s cool, and I think dad is a little jealous (as it’s something he probably would’ve done with Simon, given the chance) but for me, today is sound.
The icing on the cake, was that when I posted a picture on Facebook of where I was, the first few people to ‘Like’ it were some of Simon’s school friends… it’s as though they knew what it’d have meant to him, perhaps it’d have meant the same to them too, had they been here? The Italian Job was one of the iconic movies boys watched with their dads, I guess.
I’m now on the bus en route to the airport – I’ve done the one thing I wanted to do here, and it brought a HUGE smile to my face. Next time you think I wish I could do xxx… or I wish I could go to yyy… ask yourself WHY you can’t, then ask yourself what you CAN do to get around the barrier. It sounds simple, and usually it’s a time or money thing, but I believe it’s about priorities. These days, a flight to Europe can cost the same as a big night out or a weekend’s boozing. So if you REALLY want to try xxx or go to yyy, ask yourself if you want the night out or weekend’s boozing more, and if the answer is no, then book xxx or yyy and give yourself something to look forward to. Experiences last a lifetime, and they make us who we are. I’d take the stamp on my passport, every time.
Right, where’s next…?