July 10, 2007

500 Meets 500

A row of old Fiat 500s By chance, the first day of our flat-hunting trip to Turin coincided with Fiat officially launching the new 500 . The new car's badging has reverted to "500" rather than "cinquecento", presumably so that they can gloss over the boxy 90s incarnation and maximaise the nostalgia-effect for the retro-looking new model

I've never been to the launch of a new car before, although I expect that most other car launches aren't quite like this one. The entire town was in party mood for the "Festa da Cinquecento", the Festival of the 500. That wasn't the official name (all the signs I saw said "500 meets 500"), but summed up how the locals were celebrating the birth of this baby Fiat.

There are bits of new 500 dotted around the window displays of lots of the shops in the city - a steering wheel here; a dashboard or light cluster there - and the main piazzas in the city were host to a range of events throughout the day. At lunchtime the kids were taking part in races almost reminiscent of "It's a Knockout" or dancing in front of the stand for the local radio station; and by night there were huge video displays up showing the main event down by the river.

Piazza Vittorio Venuto leads down to the River Po, and there (along with the river bank) was where the main action was. The piazza, bridge and all along the river were packed with people - it really felt as though everyone in the city had come out to mark the occasion.

There were also hundreds of old Fiat 500s, from all over the place, parked up everywhere. The photo on the left is just a few that were in Piazza Vittorio Venuto. I'd never realised there was such variety in 500s - ordinary ones; sporty Abarth ones; camper models; cars with ski-racks on the back; even 4x4 versions which were veering towards seeming Bigfoot-style.

It all seemed a bit strange at first - there was all this celebration about the original 500 and festival atmosphere, but it was as if someone had forgotten that there was a new model to promote. All day we'd been finding new events or pockets of old 500s, but there was hardly a picture of the new one, never mind an actual car.

As it was nearing midnight, there was a huge firework display over the river, and I think that they had one of the new cars suspended suspended from wires over the water when the fireworks went off. I'm not sure, because we weren't in a position where we could see one of the screens, and there were too many people crowded round the river to get a look at the action.

It felt a bit of an anti-climax, so we started heading back to the hotel, calling into Piazza Castello on the way to see if the rumours of free Spumanti at midnight were true. We didn't find any wine, but did arrive just in time for the sirens and police escort as a convoy of new 500s snaked its way through the city to the sound of much cheering and horn-beeping.

The new Fiat 500


Posted by Adrian at July 10, 2007 02:27 PM | TrackBack

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