Torino is not the Italy you expect. It’s a rectilinear lines make make it the kind of city always ready for a street race, thanks to industrialist Giovanni Agnelli. Local boy gone big, Agnelli transformed the small town into the headquarters of an incredible automobile empire. And then in 1923, Agnelli put Torino into 5th gear when he opened the game-changing FIAT factory, a gorgeous fete of architecture. Today, it’s monument and destination: DoubleTree Lingotto.
An innovative factory
By the 1930s, the FIAT factory was the biggest automobile manufacturing structure in the world. Factory and headquarters, every aspect of car production took place here- from the assemblage and construction to administration and finally testing on its rooftop track. The very first FIAT 500 Toppling to the roadster Pininfarina revved up on the kilometer-long oval test track. Connecting every level was an internal ramp leading from the roof to ground level (and vice versa) so that once approved, the car could literally drive out onto the streets of Torino.
The FIAT Factory is most beautiful example of Rationalist architecture – streamlined, functional and futuristic, to this day. Le Corbusier called it “One of the most impressive sights in industry”. And it remained so until it closed in 1982, the FIAT factory closed the factory doors.
The FIAT factory is more than a Torino landmark (catch its cameo in 1969 film The Italian Job), it is a monument celebrating Torino’s innate entrepreneurial attitude. Makes sense that architect Renzo Piano would oversee a renovation that only transformed its halls into a centro commercial (a mall center) and Doubletree hotel.
A Renzo Piano-designed hotel
Welcome to the DoubleTree Lingotto, a beautiful glass rectangle of a hotel designed by Piano who’s main source of inspiration was the adjacent FIAT factory. Opened in 2018, the DoubleTree Lingotto may not be in the most gamine neighborhood of Torino- but then again, Lingotto is neighborhood true to Torino’s DNA.
Lingotto is a destination for architecture and automotive fans, thanks to Agnelli and Piano. The hotel is a vertical rectangle of stacked glass that sits next door to the FIAT factory. The external glass box structure is inspired by the rationalist lines of the factory.
Inside, 142 rooms surround a large glass atrium- which is best enjoyed standing in one of the three glass elevators that haul you up all three floors, reminiscent of factory lifts. The rooms are large and luminous with three-meter-high ceiling to floor glass windows- designed with wood paneling and dark blue leather. Slick, futuristic and function- 21st century rationalism at its very best.
Roof Top Access
Up until 2022, you could ask the concierge for a walk around the FIAT rooftop track and you’d be handed a small red key for access to a private elevator in the mall. In 2019, I took advantage of th e key, and entered a desolate and some post-apocalyptic mall at 6:30am. It was more than I expected, even if Torino reminded me that sunrise can also mean a rainbow of greys. In 2022, the landscape literally changed with re-opened Pinacoteca Agnelli.
Race through the streets of 1960s Torino and around the FIAT track with Michael Caine and Mini Coopers (??!!) in The Italian Job, 1969.