The Stuff Dreams are Made of is Sometimes Carbon Steel: A Visit to Turin’s Car Museum

In a country where everyone owned a Dacia, my dad decided to buy an Oltcit. In a country where everyone learned to drive on said Dacia, I maneuvered a clunky black Audi, and yes it looked like a goddamn hearse (and felt like one, and it was only through the mercy of God, and none of my talents, that it did not become one). In a country where everyone coveted not said Dacia, but some German feat of scientific engineering, I fell in love with the approximative trustworthiness but unquestionable beauty of Italian cars. My most primitive Italian vocabulary included nothing related to gelato, amore or pasta, but contained a magic spell. Three words that encompassed a longing for distant horizons not yet known- as Federico Fellini explained, I was also helplessly in love with places I haven’t been to and would perhaps never go to either. I of course knew nothing of Federico Fellini at the time, but I knew these three words: Lancia Delta Integrale.

Besides the clunky Audi, I also tested my father’s patience by practicing on his second car, the Oltcit’s replacement: a Fiat Ritmo. And though I made fun of him when he approached green lights like a Formula 1 race, claiming his car was the Ferrari, and of course he’s be first off the blocks, the little silver sliver of the Ritmo did feel a bit like an untamed mare. It wasn’t a car that made you look cool, or important, or in the know about the car industry’s ins and outs. It just made you happy.

It was thus with these two cars, the mighty rally winning Lancia and the humble but jolly working class Ritmo, in mind that I entered Turin’s car museum (also known as MAUTO)- of course Turin should have one, since its recent history is so thoroughly interconnected with Fiat itself, Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino, funded in the city in the last year of the 19th Century. The museum’s building is thus located fairly close to the old Lingotto plant, with a view of the river, and was built specifically to host the collection. Initially opened in the 60s, it went through a full renovation and rethinking and reopened its doors in 2011, with the exhibition divided into three sections: one exploring the history of the car industry, another focused on the relationship between man and car and finally one dedicated to design.

It’s thus arranged in such a way as to satisfy the curiosities of both the clueless lay(wo)man (myself), or the true car fiend- the evolution of cars is put in historical context, but you can also inspect individual engines and many other technical details I shall not name lest I reveal just what kind of clueless that clueless stands for. The collection is made up or around 200 cars representing 80 brands from 10 countries (the Dacia 1310 a sad omission) and includes such gems as the Fiat 500 which once belonged to Italian president Sandro Pertini and a breathtaking sequence of Italian racing cars, including the Ferrari models driven by Gilles Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher.

The best times to visit would probably be on Friday and Saturday, as it is open until from 10 AM until 9 PM and can thus be squeezed in after various sightseeing or further museum visiting endeavours. Other days have more convoluted opening hours, on Monday it is open from 10 AM to 2 PM, on Tuesday it opens at 2 PM and closes at 7 PM, while on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays it is open from 10 AM to 7 PM.  Full price tickets cost 12 euros, with an 8 euro discount for various fortunate categories of people, such as Scuderia Ferrari Club members and those with an Alitalia boarding pass not older than 10 days.


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