Day 5 saw us needing to get in the car and head off somewhere different. We had our normal substantial breakfast at the hotel and said goodbye for the final time at about 9am before heading out to the motorways.
Our target for the day was to reach the city of Turin – a journey of about 170km from where we were, via the Milan Tangenziale and then the A4. On the way there we obviously needed to make a couple of stops to “colour in” various provinces with the completion of a single geocache. Very conveniently, the provinces of Novara and Vercelli both contain a motorway service station on the A4 that contains a single geocache. Rather irritatingly, the Province of Biella isn’t quite intercepted by the A4, so we didn’t go there, and as a result our map of Italy now has an irritating little gap there, because we’ve cached in every province that surrounds Biella. Maybe we’ll go back one day, or maybe we won’t. We decided not to stop because we had a busy afternoon planned in Turin and didn’t want to waste the day chasing caches in the middle of nowhere.
The city of Turin was one of our main targets for the holiday, because neither Kas nor I had ever been there other than driving past on a bus on the way to various skiing holidays. When planning the holiday we decided that the best way to see central Turin would be to try to visit all the original shooting locations for the original (1969) film, The Italian Job. If you’re not familiar with it, it is a truly wonderful comedy caper about a bunch of London gangland thugs trying to pull a heist in Turin, and stars what was, at the time, a full-on British luvvie-fest in much the same way that all the Harry Potter films are. It’s packed to the rafters with famous British TV and cinema celebrities. It’s also interesting to watch as a history lesson in the monstrously stereotypical views held by many people in the UK at the time – the British are all portrayed as calm, hard working, erudite and loyal if somewhat eccentric, whereas the Italians are all portrayed as feckless, disorganised, over-excitable, loud and incompetent. All apart from the Mafia, who are portrayed as stylishly dressed and sinister. But enough of that. We shouldn’t judge people of the past by today’s standards, apparently.
The basic plot of the film is that a bunch of London gangland criminals attempt to steal a bunch of gold bullion on it’s way through central Turin from the airport to the Fiat factory at Lingotto and then try to escape in three Minis through a traffic jam they created themselves, onto a waiting bus which carries them over the Alps into Switzerland. Central Turin therefore forms the backdrop for all scenes involving the heist itself and the escape in the Minis. Because they were escaping through a traffic jam, some of the escape scenes are filmed in places you wouldn’t normally take a car, and that’s really the whole point.
We entered Turin on the north side and Violet the Sat Nav took us on a route round the east of the city centre which took us straight past Shooting Location #1 – the Gran Madre di Dio, where the initial black & white film of the proposed heist was shot and sent to Michael Caine and Noel Coward. Well that was a good start, I have to say. More of that later, though, as we came back on foot later in the day to “do it” properly.
The next location we arrived at was one that we initially didn’t plan at all, but when I found the location it was far too good to miss. In the middle of the week before we travelled, while I was researching the various shooting locations, I learned that the Lingotto factory was converted some time ago into a shopping mall with hotels. One of those hotels is the NH Lingotto. Why is this important ? Because if you read the hotel information closely enough you can establish that guests are allowed to use the rooftop test track as part of their fitness & exercise facilities. Well Kas always likes a good run, and if we hadn’t been staying there we probably wouldn’t have gone at all, so I rebooked our hotel in Turin to the NH Lingotto. Violet found it relatively easily but unfortunately we arrived early enough (about midday) that we couldn’t get into the room. The receptionist said it would be an hour or so and he could give us some free tickets for the Fiat museum in the shopping mall, but to be honest we had other plans, so we went back to the car and covered ourselves in suncream and headed off to do our homage.
One other advantage of moving to the NH Lingotto is that there’s a Metro Station just outside, from which it’s possible to get a train to the city centre in about 10 minutes – the metro runs from Lingotto through the Porto Nuova Station. Ideal.
From the station we walked north in the general direction of Piazza Castello via Piazza San Carlo. Most of the walking here was through covered arcades down the side of the road, which provided very welcome relief from the sunshine. It was turning into a hot day.
On this stretch of walk the “homage” included the covered arcade where the policeman on the motorbike slid off on the wet floor. That’s in the Galleria San Federico (and yes, that is the correct spelling). We spent a couple of minutes there trying to figure out which direction the motorbike came in from.
At Piazza Castello there are a couple of the shooting locations. The Palazzo Madama is the place where “Camp Freddie” is seen acknowledging the start of the heist from the palace balcony. The balcony in question was obscured from view, though, as a result of some maintenance work on the front of the building. On the opposite side of the square there’s a covered arcade which I believe is the place where during the escape scenes one of the guys grabs a chicken leg from a restaurant table as they pass by. This is really getting a bit nerdy, isn’t it ? Well, “go hard or go home” is the operative phrase.
Whilst in the Piazza Castello the girls also took the opportunity to get soaking wet in the fountains. Well, why not. Kas said it was fine so long as they both accept that they’ve then got to spend the rest of the afternoon slopping around in wet clothes and shoes. The temptation was too great. In they went.
Once the kids were bored of getting wet, we retired to a nearby touristy, over-priced cafe to treat ourselves to the traditional daily ice-cream, and then we set off in an eastward direction looking for some more filming locations.
The loading of the bullion into the back of the minis was filmed inside the Palazzo Carignano, where there’s a great big wooden door on one side and three mini-sized arches on the other. From here it’s a short walk to the Galleria Sub Alpina, which is the indoor arcade with the plants that the minis drive through immediately before the “falling off the motorbike” shot. It’s all nicely joined up around here.
It was getting slightly late in the afternoon by this point and we still had a couple of places we wanted to go, so next we scuttled off in the general direction of the Mole Antonelliana, a place which is so good that it is quite literally on the money. The gist of the place is that it was originally started as a massive synagogue, but then the local Jewish community ran out of cash and/or took offence at the amount of overspend being incurred as Alessandro Antonelli amended the design, so the synagogue was never completed. At some point later the building was taken over by the City and was completed in its current form. It now hosts a Museum of Cinema in its lower floors, but we were there primarily to catch the lift to the top so we could get a great view of the city, and do a couple of geocaches.
From here we continued east towards the River Po and the Gran Madre di Dio. The church was used twice in the filming of the Italian Job – once at the start, where it’s the location of the initial black & white film reel sent to Michael Caine explaining the plan, and once during the escape scenes, when the minis career down the front steps around the outside of a wedding. On the river at this point is also the ramp down and the weir where the minis make their escape, although the sewer tunnel entrance/exit are elsewhere in the city and the sewer tunnel itself is in Coventry. Two for the price of one at this location, then.
Ever since we’d left the Mole Antonelliana the weather had been looking progressively more threatening, and because it was now approaching 5pm we decided it was time to head back to the hotel so that Kas could get her evening run up on the roof. The walk back through the city to the station was quick and painless and once we got back to the hotel we were checked into a really very nice room.
Kas got changed quickly and then we all went down to reception to collect the keys and made our way through the shopping centre to the lift that takes you up to the rooftop test track. The time up there was spoiled somewhat by the thundery weather, which meant that the peaks of the Alps were shrouded in cloud, but still it’s a spectacular view from the top and definitely one of the lost iconic locations for the film shooting. Looking east from the rooftop you can see the top of the Palavela, which is the big white-roofed building that the minis drive onto the top of. Except the roof is now black rather than white. In the film it also looks distinctly like the place is only just being built, but it was actually completed 8 years before the film was released.
Once Kas had finished we shot down into the room and everyone had a quick shower and we went out to eat. We found a place called “Eataly”, which seemed to be half shop, half restaurant. Their “thing” is that every food item they sell is from Italy. The main downsides were that they don’t sell Coke, Sprite, or anything else in that vein, and you have to pay up front, but the food (and beer) we ordered was excellent.
We had a long day ahead on the following day (again) and it was nearly 10pm when we finished eating, so we decided to head straight back to the hotel and get some zzzzzzzz. It had been a long day packed with silly touristy stuff in a rather beautiful city.