Italy’s National Automobile Museum could be nowhere else but Turin, first capital city of the unified country and headquarters of its major carmaker, FIAT.
As writer and politician Augusto Monti (1881-1996) explained, the 20th century “started under the sign of a completely new prodigy: the spark-ignition engine, which meant people could basically drive a locomotive down any street, or even in the sky”. The Piedmontese capital provided the ideal setting for this four-wheeled apparition that would revolutionize world history: “Here is Turin, here is Piedmont – and France and Switzerland could never miss out on this epiphany. France launched its first brands Panhard and Peugeot (which Italian competition would strive to imitate, equal or surpass, in a relationship of eternal rivalry and collaboration); Switzerland had its Deslex, the crucial and irreplaceable banker of a first ever, spectacular stock market launch” (translated from A. Monti, “Torino falsa magra”, L’Ambaradan, Turin 2006).
While the first concept of a National Automobile Museum arose in Turin in the early 1930s, the building designed by architect Amedeo Albertini on the left bank of the river Po, on Corso Unità d’Italia, was not inaugurated until 1960.
Completely overhauled in 2011, the museum now has over two hundred original cars from eighty different brands in its collection, spanning the decades from the mid-19th century to present day. Its thirty halls on three levels showcase vehicles from Poland, the United States, France, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, as well as Italy of course.
And there is more: various itineraries, a substantial Documentation Center, a “Garage” where cars not currently on display are housed, and a Restoration School where skilled staff take care of cars’ conservation.
It all makes for a great must-see, for anyone with an interest in vintage cars, as well as anyone hoping to get an original glimpse into the social trends and technological progresses made in Italy and Europe in the past century and a half.