Fiat 600 Multipla and Italy’s memories
Images of the Fiat 600 Multipla dot the memories of at least two generations of Italian people.
The model was designed by engineer Dante Giacosa, and manufactured by the Turin-based car maker since 1956 – a year full of memorable, ephemeral, and dramatic events: Khrushchev denounced Stalin’s crimes; Anna Magnani won the Academy Award; Tunisia and Morocco were granted their independence from France; Grace Kelly married Ranieri of Monaco, and Arthur Miller married Marilyn Monroe; the Andrea Doria sunk in the Atlantic; Hungary turned against the USSR; Castro’s revolution started in Cuba; 262 miners died in Marcinelle, France, and 136 of them were Italian emigrants…
For many young Italians, 1956 marked the beginning of a period in history that would lead to the 1968 protests and the following dark years of turmoil, known as Years of Lead. Over two million Fiat 600 Multipla – in its taxi or middle-class versions – were manufactured between 1956 and 1967, and would zoom on city roads for over a decade after that, leaving a track of strong memories and nostalgia all over the country.
Sandro Veronesi wrote about the 600 Multipla:
“When I went to Pianosa last year, I had the chance to add a missing piece to the puzzle of the most legendary images of my childhood imagination: my grandfather disembarking on the island on his Seicento Multipla full of clothes (ill-famed samples), ready to spend the day selling the items left over from the season that had just ended to lifers. In the early 1960s, fashion designers didn’t exist and top models were simply models (my grandfather was chic enough to call them “mannequins”); in Central Italy, he represented one of the few companies that made solid, quality clothing, under brands that are now historical: Marzotto, Cori, Tescosa…
Pianosa […] is beautiful, and the small harbor he praised, where he set up with his Seicento Multipla for his yearly sale, is truly a pearl of the Mediterranean” (translated from “Live. Ritratti, sopralluoghi e collaudi”, Bompiani, Milan 1996).
Another writer, Luigi Malerba, also has memories connected to this special car:
“It looked like an amusement park from Rome’s Janiculum: it was al lit up, with the large ‘M’ for Motta dominating Piazza Barberini from above, a Moon and the Alitalia sign. On one side, Rome spread out with its city lights and noise; on the other, Miriam and I were inside my Seicento Multipla, like a stage, as if the eyes of everyone in Rome were looking at us from the audience” (translated from “Il serpente”, in “Gruppo 63. L’antologia”, Bompiani, Milan 2013).
Singer-songwriter Francesco Guccini also recalled:
“A song by Enzo Jannacci goes ‘He had a black, natural gas taxi / with a green stripe at the chassis’. A green and black taxi? That’s right: up until the 1960s, taxis were green and black (and most often were Fiat Seicento Multiplas, which had small, foldable jump seats that kids always preferred, for some unknown reason” (translated from “Il taxi”, in “Dizionario delle cose perdute”, Mondadori, Milan 2012).
Last but not least, popular comedian Lino Banfi had the 600 Multipla star in one of his famous jokes:
“Professor: Can you think of any painter from the Italian Seicento?
Clemente: My uncle Damiano! He was a painter in the 1960s: he painted balcony rails, windows…
Professor: And so?
Clemente: Let me finish… When he was evicted from his house, he and his wife slept in their Seicento Multipla for a year. People called him ‘the painter of the Seicento’!” (translated from “C’era una volta Nonno Libero”, Gremese, Rome 2004).
Now let our gallery either evoke old memories for you or make new, beautiful ones.