The Fisogni Museum of the Petrol Station in Tradate, in the province of Varese, is home to over 5,000 pieces of industrial archaeology coming from every corner of the world: gas pumps, compressors, fire extinguishers, oil cans, oil tin cans, posters, license plates…
The museum was created by Guido Fisogni in 1966. It was located inside Palazzolo Milanese until April 2015, when its new headquarters in a beautifully renovated villa near Varese was inaugurated.
Its peculiar collection is absolutely unique in Europe. Indirectly, it even inspired author Alessandro Baricco to write a short story titled “Benzinaio da grande”, published in the collection “Barnum” (Feltrinelli, Milan 1995).
“In every classroom, there was always one kid who wanted to work at a gas station when he grew up. A gas station? A gas station. How silly, you thought. But you were wrong. That kid was a poet, and in a way none of us could grasp, he was less silly than any of us. He was someone who, while still in his childish short pants, was able to smell the perfume of a legend. He could see it where we only saw a gas station, the stink of petrol, and dirty hands. He could see the legend.
My eyes opened up to what he could see when I stumbled upon a newly published book called ‘Benzina’. It had pictures of gas stations, oil tin cans, signs, and globes (those glass, and later plastic things that used to be on gas pumps like lampposts, colorful and round, with Amoco, Esso, or Gulf written on them: hustlers for randy tanks).
It was a historical work: from the first pumps in the early years of the century to the 1980s – almost one century of gas stations. The photos were taken by Decio Grassi, who was charmed by a museum I will just have to see sooner or later […]. Leafing through the book, you are overwhelmed by a Western world legend, the saga of octanes, the myth of fuel. A world, if you know what I mean. A real show.”
Baricco has probably been to the Fisogni Museum since then. And we feel like doing the same will give us a taste of a great legend.