During one of the many action scenes in The Italian Job — the Michael Caine original, not the Mark Wahlberg remake — the Mini Coopers race around a rooftop track in Turin. It's one of cinema's most civilized car chase scenes, as evinced by the thoroughly British line, "Try putting your foot down, Tony, they're really getting rather close."
Here's the scene:
The track featured is a real race track, built on the roof of a Fiat factory that opened in Turin's Ligotto district in 1923. The factory's assembly line began at the ground floor and ended on the top level, where cars were taken for a test run around the track. Spiraling ramps inside the building allowed the cars to be driven back down and into showrooms.
The factory closed in 1982, after which Fiat held a competition for its redevelopment. Architect Renzo Piano, whose work includes the New York Times building, and London's "vertical city," the Shard, secured the commission. His workshop transformed the old factory into a public space complete with shopping center, theater, hotel, convention center, and art gallery. A helipad and bubble-shaped, blue glass meeting room were added to the roof to cater for business travelers with big expense accounts.
You can still visit the rooftop test track, but the days of Fiat cars looping around the course are gone. If you can't shake the urge to race around a circle, head downstairs to the speed skating rink, which was built for the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.
Other lofty diversions:
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