Because Italy is more than a geographic expression..

Alessi S.P.A. US

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Captivating Aura Of Italian Creativity

Perusing up and down WSJ I spotted an article about a Stanford physics professor and his love for Alfa Romeo. 

"...When I look at a car, I don’t just see a vehicle, but a set of values of the people who dreamed it up. The car pictured here is a 1972 Alfa Romeo Spider. I love the styling, but it’s really a car all about driving. Every aspect of the design is about performance. There was no focus group to decide where to put a ketchup holder, no gimmicks or fake wood grain. 
"Italian cars in the early 1970s got a reputation for poor quality, but it’s not warranted. These cars were very sophisticated for their time, and they required knowledge and competence from the people servicing them. This competence was not commonly found at a corner gas station. It wasn’t that the cars were pieces of junk. People just didn’t know how to take care of them..."

I may be mistaken but the cost of quality steel in the 1970s from countries in Western Europe skyrocketed leaving car manufacturers in Italy with little options except to use lower-grade steel from Russia which in part explained why they rusted as one person explained to me years ago.

In any event, he gets right to the heart of what distinguishes and differentiates Italian creativity from the rest. It's hoped I can convey this message in this (poorly run) blog.

From the comments:

"As an owner of 2 Alfas and a few other Italian cars, I couldn't agree more. Every time I sit in one of these cars I marvel at the unobtrusive competence of the people who designed them. They are made for the driver to shine, not to show off the engineers' capabilities. There are no gimmicks, no complicated interfaces that seem to be there only because the engineers could do it, no superfluous features, nothing except the man-machine interaction. These cars are a pure expression of the Italian designers' credo, harkening back to Roman times and building on the humanism of the Renaissance, that man is the measure of all things and that technology should be at the service of man. It is this idea that pervades the Italian way of life, you can see it every day when you visit Rome or Florence or Bologna or Milan, and it is embodied in the cars that they make. And in the motorcycles, and the boats, and the watches, and the clothes..."

An accurate and apt description if you ask me.

Many years ago my cousin explained to me while visiting Italy that Italians don't look for comfort in cars like North Americans and Northern Europeans do. Italians want to feel the enraged sexy might of their cars. They have a passion and panache for speed and more speed. Their car culture simply reflects and mirrors this appetite for speed through cutting edge design. It's what's keeps their creative juices flowing. It reminds them they're alive.

That's why you don't see too many Italian luxury cars. They do exist among the Maserati, Lancia and even Alfa ranks, while unsurprisingly beautiful and comfortable, it's not their specialty.

****

Which got me thinking. How many truly great racing nations are there? By this, I mean countries that create the machines to feed their lust for speed.

Off the top of my head, the obvious ones that spring to mind are the United States, Great Britain, Italy, France, and Germany. Japan, Australia, Spain, Brazil, Argentina and even Canada can also been thrown into the mix. Japan is a great producer but its racing culture is not as vibrant. The others are nations that have provided talent but not necessarily the machines - by this I mean speedy boats, planes, automobiles, motorcycles and whatever else people race.

So that leaves the first six. And out of those mighty six,  in my view, the U.S, G-B and Italy stand out as the biggest racing cultures.





Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Disaster Hits Italy's Centuries Old Olive Trees

This is sad:

"A plant germ found in Europe for the first time is killing off centuries-old olive trees in southern Italy’s Apulia region, and researchers haven’t yet figured out how far the pathogen has spread.
Scientists found xylella fastidiosa, a bacterium native to the Americas, in plants across Lecce province in Apulia’s south and are now widening their search to all the region, Anna Maria D’Onghia, head of integrated pest management at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari, said by phone today.

The pathogen, detected last month, is linked to die-back of olive trees over 8,000 hectares (19,768 acres) near the city of Lecce, the European Food Safety Agency reported two days ago. Apulia is Italy’s largest olive growing region with production of about 11 million metric tons last year, or 36 percent of the national crop, government statistics show."

I hope Italy recovers. Or else the world will be poorer for it.

This tragedy reminds me of The Great French Wine Blight that destroyed many vineyards in France in the 19th century. So much so that part of the solution was to import vines from the United States (California); ironically the source of the problem since the insects that ruined the vineyards originated from the USA. Yes, there is an American connection to modern French wines.

Just Add To Long List Of Legendary Names: Laverda

The Laverda 1000 V6 typifies the Italian penchant for spontaneous bursts of creative genius where machines are concerned. Having been part of the rebirth of Italian motorcycles in the 1970s and eventually declining in the 1980s, Laverda is yet another iconic work of engineering intrigue born in Italy.

Not exactly known for its smoothness and must have been hard to handle, the prototype featured a monster V6 engine by way of Giulio Alfieri - more known for his work with Maserati than motorcycles - who was commissioned by Massimo and Pietro Laverda.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Pininfarina Sale In The Works


Pininfarina's legacy features well on this blog - although not nearly enough and that's my fault obviously - and it's pending sale to an Indian company caught my eye.

"Mahindra & Mahindra is close to signing a deal to buy Italian car designer Pininfarina (PNNI.MI), two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Friday, the latest purchase of an iconic Italian brand by an Asian company.

"...Milan-listed Pininfarina has designed cars for Ferrari, Maserati, Rolls-Royce and Cadillac. Its shares closed down nearly 10 percent on Thursday after daily MF reported that there were growing doubts over the success of the talks..."

"...Turin-based Pininfarina, which owes its name to a nickname of its founder Battista Farina, also called "Pinin" Farina, is the latest Italian industrial brand to be snapped up by an Asian buyer after China National Chemical Corp agreed to buy into tyre-maker Pirelli in a 7.3 billion euro deal in March."

It's a shame such iconic Italian brands and companies don't remain in Italian hands but if acquiring companies can ensure viability without compromising Italian jobs and/or style, then so be it. Better that instead going bankrupt.

  


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Japitalian Car For 2017: Fiat Spider



Say hello to the 2017 Fiat Spider.

Road and Track:

"...Yes, as has been promised since the newly-redesigned Miata was first conceived, the iconic roadster has spawned an Italian-badged variant. Wearing the "124 Spider" badge, first applied to a Fiat back in 1966, this new roadster shares its chassis, suspension, some body panels, and nearly all of its interior with the Miata we've grown to love."


It has the look only Italian design can provide, n'est pas?

Pic from newestcars.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Italian Machines Ready To Leave Innovative Imprint

The machine industry is a particularly important one in Italy. The country contributes 120 companies specializing in textile machines and represents a huge source of revenues and jobs for the sector which has been experiencing some turbulence in recent years.

That's why the international textile machine fair in Milan this year is an important one for companies. If anything it gives them a chance to diversify demand into other markets outside Europe where roughly half of its business is conducted.

"...The event is already setting records: over 1600 exhibitors will occupy a surface area of around 105,000m2. Italian machinery manufacturers will certainly play a major role, with about 450 exhibitors on hand (over 28% of the total exhibitors) and over 31,000 net m2 of surface area occupied, ACIMIT reports. "

From the ACIMIT.IT website:




The event is already setting records: over 1600 exhibitors will occupy a surface area of around 105,000m2. Italian machinery manufacturers will certainly play a major role, with about 450 exhibitors on hand (over 28% of the total exhibitors) and over 31,000 net m2 of surface area occupied, ACIMIT reports. - See more at: http://www.innovationintextiles.com/italian-textile-machinery-reports-growth-in-domestic-market/#sthash.5mGrL1Tn.dpuf
The event is already setting records: over 1600 exhibitors will occupy a surface area of around 105,000m2. Italian machinery manufacturers will certainly play a major role, with about 450 exhibitors on hand (over 28% of the total exhibitors) and over 31,000 net m2 of surface area occupied, ACIMIT reports. - See more at: http://www.innovationintextiles.com/italian-textile-machinery-reports-growth-in-domestic-market/#sthash.5mGrL1Tn.dpuf

Monday, September 28, 2015

Italian Initiative Builds 3-D Printer

"The world's largest 3-D printer is capable of building clay dwellings aimed to be used to supplement a growing global housing crisis.

Italian collective WASP -- or World's Advanced Saving Project -- presented their 40 foot high, lightweight printer named Big Delta last week during a three-day festival celebrating the feat. Unlike other large scale 3-D printers focused on building structures, this device is capable of creating an entire hut from the bottom up during one printing session. Its principal building material is mud."

I post the video from the article here because it's not only interesting but comes with a really cool song:


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Consumer Electronics One Industry Italy Can Improve On

Some of you may have noticed, despite Italy's technological and scientific pedigree and manufacturing prowess, one area the country has lagged other nations is consumer electronics.

Although, interestingly, they rank ahead of France and the UK in that industry.

When you think electronics you immediately think Japan (and increasingly Korea) or the United States. Other countries

Here are some Italian tech gadgets.

Qardio is interesting for those with heart issues.

Cyclists Turned Manufacturer: Battaglin

Watched Fabio Aru win the 2015 edition of the Vuelta a Espana earlier today and glanced at past general classification winners at this Grand Tour race. I came across 1981's winner Giovanni Battaglin. Turns out after retirement he founded Battaglin Cicli.

Handsome looking bikes indeed including the retro one.

Aru, for his part, won the race (for those of you interested) riding a Specialized just like his compatriot Vincenzo Nibali did when he won the Tour de France in 2014.

Battaglin bicycles are not without its triumphs. It's a bike tailored for champions in the all to familiar and legendary Made in Italy way. 


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Italy Rising In Internet Of Things Network

Italy has made impressive strides in 'Internet of Things' networks but there remains room to grow.

More often than not, Italy has been a laggard for too long among its Big Three competitors in technology as well as other European nations. Hopefully, the country will somehow find its footing and do honor to a nation so often at the forefront of human advancement. Whenever there's a top list compiled, an Italian city or the country itself needs to be placed among the leaders. Not hovering or lumbering around wallowing in the lower levels.

Internet Technology is one area Italy can rejuvenate its economy and propel it out of this lethargic malaise it is experiencing.

Trento in Northern Italy is internationally recognized for its efforts on Smart Cities initiatives.

From ZDNet:

"Italy has been pioneering the use of smart electricity meters since 2001 (first country in the world).
Soon, smart metering is likely to be extended to water and gas monitoring. An early trial, promoted by the Italian Energy Authority, is currently taking place in nine cities - Turin, Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena, Genoa, Verona, Bari, Salerno and Catania."

IoT doesn't come without significant concerns first among them security and vulnerability to hacking. 

Nonetheless, it's a good start. If soccer clubs in Serie A starting to construct state of the art stadiums is any indication, maybe Italy may be finally ready to reinvigorate itself.

 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

First Non-Italian Appointed Head Of Uffizi

Finally I get back, albeit for a brief moment, I'm in the middle of training for the marathon next month (hopefully I avoid an injury) and it's zapping all of my mental and physical energy it looks like.

This article caught my eye if anything it reveals more of the recent trend of Germans being appointed to important positions within some of Italy's most cherished entities and organizations.

Its most recent is Eike Schmidt who has been hired to take over the Uffizi in Florence. Schmidt will become the first non-Italian to head the museum since its opening in 1769 and enters a critical period of cultural reforms in the country.

I know things are not all they can be in Italy economically but there's no excuse for the continued mishandling of their cultural heritage.

Schmidt's challenges will be interesting if not unique.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Bikes At The 2015 Tour de France

With the 2015 Tour de France in full swing, let's have a quick look at what bikes and drivetrains (groupsets) times are using.

There are essentially three main drivetrain companies: Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM. Shimano dominates having outfitted 17 bikes. Campagnolo has four and SRAM one.

This year, three teams (second most among nations) have opted for Italian racing bikes. All three happen to be legends in cycling.

French team Europcar uses exclusively Campagnolo for its Colnago bikes. The V1-r model was designed in collaboration with Ferrari.

Lotto NL Jumbo out of Holland opted to compete in the tour on a Bianchi (with its magnificent famous celeste colored bikes. Just like Ferrari red has become iconic, so too Bianchi's celeste ) while Pinarello represents British squad Team Sky.

Meanwhile, Canada supplied two brands for the first time in Cervelo and first time participants Argon. The United States for its part has the most manufacturers with five on the list. Other countries represented are Germany, Taiwan, France (2), Belgium, Spain, Switzerland (1).






Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Maserati's Plans: Interview With Harald Wester

Interview with Maserati/Alfa Romeo CEO Harald Wester from Super Street:

"What does Maserati mean to you and what are your ambitions for the future?
I'm not with Maserati to change any of its aims. Maserati is the symbol of Italian style, involving performance and elegance, no one wants to change that. We only want to bring these values to our cars more effectively."

Can he be anymore German?

On a serious note, worth the read. Interesting to see how Maserati fits itself between names like Alfa, BMW and Mercedes.
 
As such, how Maserati transitions from a unique niche brand to branching out to a different market segment will be something to watch.

Ferrari Enters SUV Market

Photovoltaic Deal In Africa For Italian Company

I'm what the Gaiantician zealots call a 'climate denier', but hey, technology is tech I suppose. I have no idea how much subsidies impact Italian business, however, I imagine it's not unlike most countries in the West.

Either way, Italian companies are carving their piece of the pie.

"On Monday, Italian independent power producer Building Energy announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the New & Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) for two 50MW solar photovoltaic plants in Benban, Upper Egypt."

At least Egypt is sunny. Iceland, less so. Thus concludes my editorial.

Italian Flavor Spices Top Sports Cars From the 70s and 80s

Friday, June 26, 2015

Fiat Plans To Revive Alfa Romeo Brand


"...The carmaker plans to invest 5 billion euros in Alfa Romeo to boost sales more than fivefold to 400,000 vehicles in 2018 by adding eight new models and ramping up production.

The engines, to be produced at the group's Termoli factory in southern Italy, include an advanced high output four-cylinder engine developed for Alfa Romeo, the company said.
The second product will be a Ferrari-derived six-cylinder engine developed specifically for Alfa Romeo.

Fiat bought Alfa from state holding company IRI in 1986, but several attempts at reviving the brand have stalled, leaving just three models. Only 74,000 Alfa Romeos were sold in 2013."

Thursday, June 25, 2015

2015 Giro d'Italia Falls Into Spanish Hands

I'm way late on presenting even a cursory post of the 2015 Giro d'Italia but something is better than nothing I submit. Right? Right.

This year's edition of the Giro was impressively won by Spaniard Alberto Contador with a gutsy performance ahead of young rider stud Fabio Aru of Italy. Aru's team mate Mikel Landa won third spot giving Spain two riders in the top 3. It was another impressive Giro for Canadian Ryder Hesjedal.

There were some wonderful scenic routes this year as well. It was, again, an exciting race to watch.

You can read a nice report here about the race.

Some detailed statistics.

Today In Italian Tourism

A 1000 Year Virtual Tour Of Science In Italy

"A Thousand Years of Science in Italy (Mille anni di scienza in Italia) is both a virtual exhibition and an actual show organised across all of Italy and promoted by the Ministero dell’Universit√† e della Ricerca Scientifica e Tecnologica. The unprecedented development of scientific research and subsequent applications represent one of the distinctive characteristics of the last millennium. No other milieu or field of human activity has known such a radical transformation as natural sciences and technology had during the last thousand years..." 

Dear oh me, I've been naughty not posting enough, eh?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Ferrari 458 Italia

The Ferrari 458 convertible.

And the M458T - 670 horsepower behemoth.




Bond's Italian Bond

"...Haider is the founder of Aspetto, a custom bulletproof clothier, which he runs along with Robert Davis. The front room of their small store in Fredericksburg, Virginia, is littered with silk swatches from Italy, wool remnants from leftover suiting and lists of measurements, all the makings of an old-school tailor shop. The back, however, is covered in what the owners call "ballistics", but most of us would refer to it as bulletproof gear..."

Of course, arguably Italy's greatest contribution to the Bond legend is the Aston Martin DB5 designed by Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera. 

Once again, we see not too far strays Italian influence. 

Two Mighty Civilizations Look To Boost Cooperation

China and Italy have come a long way since Marco Polo.

"Italy is the convergence point between the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Thus the Sino-Italian cooperation in the construction of One Belt, One Road will be a reference for all countries along the route," Fan pointed out.

In 2014, the number of Chinese tourists traveling abroad increased by 19.5 percent year on year to 109 million, topping a threshold of 100 million for the first time in history, according to CNTA.
Onofrio Cutaia, Director General for tourism policies of the Italian Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MIBACT), said "The rise of China and connected demand for tourism arouse great expectations..."


"...For this reason, he underlined, Italy, the country with highest number of UNESCO world culture sites besides to more than 6,000 palaces and castles and nearly 4,000 protected natural areas, cannot miss the opportunity to strengthen tourism relations with China by "easing visa policies, offering convenient and diversified solutions, and becoming familiar with the needs of Chinese tourists."

And 40% of the world's and 60% of Europe's art treasures lie within its borders.

Which is baffling why, a country with staggering offerings would lag Spain and even France in tourism.



Friday, May 15, 2015

Space Espresso

Yeah, yeah. I've been out of action.

But this story should make it up to you all.

Only Italians would send barista-astronauts (Samantha Cristoforetti) into space to make espresso in a machine made by Lavazza.

From NBC (in first link): "...Roberto Battiston, the head of the Italian Space Agency, called the coffeemaker a "work of high engineering" in a report from Italy's ANSI news agency. He said the experiment will produce "not only immediate psychological benefits for the astronauts, but significant positive returns to Earth and technological advantages for future space missions." 


Italians are too much.

Friday, April 3, 2015

AC Mlian's New Stadium

With Juventus already in their new state of the art digs, and Roma and Inter Milan (and possibly Napoli) having announced their own plans for a new home, it was a matter of time before AC Milan would come in with its own plans.

"AC Milan have revealed the first designs for their proposed new €400m stadium to be constructed in the Portello area of the city. Designed in collaboration with Arup, the arena will be part of a larger regional development that intends to remain open seven days a week. The stadium will boast a total match-day capacity of 48,000 and includes a hotel, a variety of restaurants and integrated areas of public greenery.

The stadium plans have been drawn up by Fabio Novembre, the architect behind the club’s recently ‘Casa Milan’ headquarters and are partly inspired by Bayern Munich’s former Olympic Stadium, as well as Juventus Stadium in Turin."

I watched the Milan Derby in 1999 with a friend at the legendary San Siro. Looks like I may have to make a new trip to Milan.

Now if the club can just regain its legendary form. Indeed, these are trying times for the rossoneri in both domestic and European competition.

Pretty In Pink

And now for something a tad different...

The top pink headlines from La Gazzetta dello Sport dating back to its inception in 1896

La Gazzetta is an iconic sports paper on par, arguably, with Sports Illustrated in terms of its impact.

As the article shows, soccer wasn't the biggest sport in Italy in the early going. Professional cycling and motor racing were. In fact, they continue to have rabid support in a country with a staggering legacy in those sports. Of course, slowly Soccer slowly overtook those sports (a little like how pro football gradually displayed baseball in the United States by the 1960s) to eventually rule supreme.

Contrast this with another great sports country. In Germany amateur soccer was popular from the start despite not having a legitimate professional soccer league until 1963 with the Bundesliga.

Until that time Germany didn't have a professional sports landscape as was the case in Italy (and Spain in soccer). This changed in the 1980s with the rise of its tennis stars, and in the 1990s with pro race car drivers and cyclists enter the fray.

This is why, in part, when you look at the list of world champions in pro sports like motor racing, cycling and even skiing (not so much tennis), there are more Italians than Germans.

It also explains why Italy (along with Spain) is or was home to the the top leagues at various points in different sports over the years from soccer to basketball to volleyball.

Interesting that the best leagues were from two Mediterranean nations and not from Northern Europe. But that's for another discussion.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

F-35A Fighter Jets Unveiled

"Lockheed Martin has rolled out the first F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft from the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri Air Base in northern Italy."

"...Lockheed Martin is proud of its relationship with Italy and values the highly-skilled Alenia Aermacchi workforce building this incredible jet...."

"...The F-35 is a fifth-generation multi-role fighter aircraft, and is designed to conduct a wide range of ground attack, reconnaissance, and air defence missions with stealth capability.
The three F-35 variants include a conventional take-off and landing aircraft for the US and allied air forces, a short takeoff and landing fighter for the US Marine Corps and the UK Royal Navy, as well as a carrier version for the US Navy...."

The Men Behind Timless Engineering Designs

Prior to offering his engineering skills to Maserati and Lamborghini, Giulio Alfieri built his reputation at Lambretta and Innocenti. In addition to building chassis and engines (including for Citroen) he also designed Maserati motorcyles.

After Alejandro De Tomaso bought Maserati in 1975, he summarily dismissed Alfieri who was influential in blocking the sale while the company was still owned by the Orsi family seven years prior.

Here are snippets of his creations:







































Image credits: Top - From Mega Deluxe 1951 Lambretta; 2nd image a scooter that reached 200 km/hr. Third, Lamborghini Countach (25th anniversary edition); Fourth, Maserati (Birdcage 1961); Last, Alfieri working on engine.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Racing Cars And The Italian Economy

Here are some excerpts from a paper titled The Italian Sports Car Cluster (Harvard):

"...Another interesting phenomenon in Italy’s business environment is the prevalence of small-
medium enterprises (SMEs), particularly in manufacturing. Two-thirds of Italian manufacturing workers are in firms with fewer than 100 employees, versus 37% in the U.S. and 31% in Germany. Italy has more SMEs than any other country in Europe—more than 50% more than Germany, the next largest. The Economist argues that a globalize world puts a premium on size, so that Italy’s SME legacy will be forced to change...."

"...Northern Italy is among the richest regions in all of Europe, when measured by disposable income..."
 
"...Exports of goods, including automotive, are sent mostly to Europe (72%).

Italy’s natural resources exports account only for 0.5% of its
GDP and 2.4% of exports.

Italy has the most industrially-diversified exports in the ICCP sample, measured by the
lowest percentage of exports concentrated in the Top 50 Industries (42%).

Italy has significant strength at the cluster level in world markets (Tab
le 1): Seven Italian clusters are among the top 3 in the world, and 15 are in the top 5 (from
a sample of 42 clusters), giving Italy a 17% and 36% share. Similar strength exists with sub-clusters

Italy is among the richest countries in the world, with development indicators comparable to its
European peers and the OECD average.

How does Italy achieve such high levels of income with a relatively poor business environment?
-worsening business environment
-north dragging down by south
-clusters not affected by government policies
..."

"...Modena, Italy, the home of the Italian sports car cluster, is known as the "international capital of sports cars." It is the birthplace of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and De Tomaso. The first
three of these (De Tomaso no longer manufactures cars) comprise the core of the cluster we will
be analyzing. All three companies have their headquarters within a 15-km radius of one another. This small geographic area produces a surprisingly large portion—nearly a third, overall—of the high end sports car units sold worldwide every year..."


"...As we can see from Exhibit 13, given Italy’s level of GDP per capita, it has an extremely high penetration of cars per thousand.
 

In fact, Italy has the second highest absolute car penetration behind Luxembourg."

*Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta (1964) image from Bold Ride.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Venturi's Physics And Random Car Photos

"The Venturi effect is the reduction in fluid pressure that results when a fluid flows through a constricted section of pipe. The Venturi effect is named after Giovanni Battista Venturi (1746–1822), an Italian physicist."

In F1 it helps to improve downforce.

Wind tunnels a key component/feature in the aerodynamic designs of Italian cars.

***  ***

Some random car photos:

































Images: 1st The most expensive car in the world Ferrari 250 GTO (1964); 2nd Concept car extraordinaire DeTomaso Vallelunga (1966);  3rd: The exquisite Lancia Flaminia Zagato (1966); The audacious Lamborghini Diablo (1992). Last, Lamborghini LM002 (1985).


Sports Car Racing History

In-depth history lesson of the sports car industry at the Gutenberg project.

Hint: Italy features prominently.

Excerpts:

"...In the 1920s, the cars used in endurance racing and Grand Prix were still basically identical, with fenders and two seats, to carry a mechanic if necessary or permitted. Cars such as the Bugatti Type 35 were almost equally at home in Grands Prix and endurance events, but specialisation gradually started to differentiate the sports-racer from the Grand Prix car. The legendary Alfa Romeo Tipo A Monoposto started the evolution of the true single-seater in the early 1930s; the Grand Prix racer and its miniature voiturette offspring rapidly evolved into high performance single seaters optimised for relatively short races, by dropping fenders and the second seat..."

"...In open-road endurance races across Europe such as the Mille Miglia, Tour de France and Targa Florio, which were often run on dusty roads, the need for fenders and a mechanic or navigator was still there. As mainly Italian cars and races defined the genre, the category was called Gran Turismo, as long distances had to be travelled, rather than running around on short circuits only..."

"...Italy found itself with both grassroots racing with a plethora of Fiat based specials (often termed "etceterinis") and small Alfa Romeos, and exotica such as Maserati and Ferrari – who also sold cars to domestic customers as well as racing on the world stage. Road races such as the Mille Miglia included everything from stock touring cars to World Championship contenders. The Mille Miglia was the largest sporting event in Italy until a fatal accident caused its demise in 1957. The Targa Florio, another tough road race, remained part of the world championship until the 1970s and remained as a local race for many years afterwards..."

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Maserati 250F Rsce Car Legacy


The above is the Maserati 250F. In its time between 1954 and 1960, it became the most decorated Grand Prix race car in history having earned 277 starts more than any other before or since.

Not least notable, the Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio drove it to two F1 World Championship titles as well as British driver Stirling Moss together earning eight wins.

Incredibly, this legendary and much admired car is set to have been sold for between 1700 and 2000 euros.

Second pic from here.



Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Global Reach Of Italian Auto Designers

Italy owns a wealth of brilliant industrial car designers among them Giovanni Michelotti, whose prolific designs extended beyond Italian borders.

Among them was the Triumph TR4 under the British banner and BMW 700 in Germany.

He was the first European to influence the Japanese car industry which was on the rise in the 1970s.

Ercole Spada also left an imprint on German automobiles through his work on BMW 5-series.

Volkswagen in particular was dependent on the creative minds of Marcello Gardini and Giorgetto Giugiaro.

Over the next few posts, I'll be expanding the roster of masters of automobile designers from Italy.


Journey Into A Fabric Factory

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

"A thick fog decends over the Piemonte countryside as I arrive in the Biellese Alps, the heart of Italy's famed textile-producing industry. I'm here to visit Vitale Barberis Canonico, the legendary producer of fabrics for Savile Row tailors with over 350 years of history...."

"...While the factory floors are filled with the most sophisticated fabric-making machinery, human nous and an expert eye are still indispensable.

Nowhere is this more so than in the checking of the cloth. Every metre of every fabric is run past a well-trained eye skilled at spotting a torn thread, a nub of unwanted yarn or a glitch in the pattern. If the flaw can be corrected it will be done by the equally skilled hands of those trained in the precision craft of re-weaving..."

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Head Transplant Possible According To Italian Surgeon


Italian surgeon Sergio Canavero wants to take the head from someone with an incurable illness and graft it on to a healthy body.

He claims the first operation could be done in just two years’ time."

How do you say Frankensteen in Italian?





Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Innovative And Immortal Isotta-Fraschini TIPO 8A

Isotta-Fraschini TIPO 8A, designed by Giustino Cattaneo, was the first car with four-wheel brakes in 1910 as well as pioneers in overhead cams.



The bodywork, which is very unusual for Italian cars, was made Fleetwood Metal Body Company out of Pennsylvania according to Zumbrunn and Heseltine in the wonderful book 'Italian Auto Legends.'

Rudolph Valentino commissioned to have a TIPO 8A made with 7370 cc engine.

IF never really made it in the world of automobile finding remarkable success in marine and aeroplane engines.




Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Part Of Italian Automotive Heritage In Philadelphia Simeone Museum

Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia:

"At one point in time, the Targa Florio, held in Sicily since 1906, was considered the most important road race in Europe. Le Mans, as a sports car race, did not start until 1923, and the Mille Miglia started in 1927. The Targa Florio race, which covered 277 miles throughout undeveloped, tortuous, and sometimes dangerous mountain roads, remained a dominant activity for road racing enthusiasts. Throughout its history, there were a variety of changes in the road course. The race always had the flavor of combining the speed and durability of the sports car itself, with the endurance and particularly cornering skills of the driver. When the FIA World Sports Car Championship was introduced in 1953, the Targa organizers applied for inclusion, which was granted in 1955."

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Italian Eco-Architecture On Display

From Inhabitat.com:


"If Foster + Partners get their way, the Italian coastal town of Rimini will be as famous for its magnificent architecture as it is for its beaches. Earlier this month, the world renowned architectural firm unveiled a new development proposal for the Italian seafront to connect the town and waterfront. The project is sure to be a truly impressive attraction for tourists all around, and promises to enhance the green-minded plan of this favorite vacation spot."

Ferrari Introduces 488 GTB

Ferrari 488 GTB unveiled.

275 GTB from 1966 as a bonus.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Alfa Romeo Unveils 4C Spider

Startup Offers One-Click Travel Options

From Forbes:

"This has opened the door to a new generation of travel tech start-ups, like Go Euro, Route Happy and Hotel Tonight, aimed at making journeys and travel experiences as seamless as possible.

The entrepreneurs behind these ventures have invariably experienced travel frustrations of their own. In the case of Italian multimodal transportation start-up Waynaut, it was the daily commute from home to university of its founder and CEO Simone Lini that was the inspiration."

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Broadband Speed Lags

You gotta take the good with bad sometimes in life.

And with Italy, there's plenty of both. Which makes it so interesting. Who wants a perfect society anyway? All that utopian splendor saps and stomps the energy out of creativity and life I say!

When it comes to average broadband speed, Italy lags...badly...next to its European peers according to Akamai's recent report.

Not sure why is so but despite recent improvements the country remains in the Dark Age so to speak.


Friday, January 9, 2015

Lamborghini Enters Smartphone Realm

Welcome to 2015!

I came across some boxes containing copy books from elementary school during the Holidays. One of them read at the top: October 12, 1982.

Amazing how time passes. How quickly we can be transported back to a time I somehow can't believe existed.

Anyway.

Lamborghini enters the Smartphone market under the Tonino Lamborghini Mobile name.

Price tag? Roughly $4000.