Hotel La Serra – a childhood dream

I’m not in the habit of blogging other people’s photography, but this is somewhat special.

This is the La Serra  complex, an architectural remnant from the 1970’s, complete with a cinema, hotel and large hall. It stands in the little Italian town of Ivrea, the home of Camillo Olivetti and his once-bustling computer company. It was built to serve as a social and cultural meeting place and urban upgrade for the quaint town.

copyright Margarita Vazquez PonteThe complex soon earned the nickname ‘typewriter’ thanks to it’s design mimicking one of Olivetti’s main products.  Inside however, the 55 mini-apartments of the hotel are inspired by naval interior design to make them more compact: fold-away furniture, tiered rooms and hidden compartments.

My father’s business trips as an Olivetti employee were often followed with a retelling of what funny new corner was discovered, or how he couldn’t find the well-concealed en suite bathroom.

As a kid I dreamed about this hotel built like a ship.

While planning my upcoming travels to Europe and first Italy visit, the memory of the magical ship-hotel resurfaced and I went on an internet hunt to find it. Unfortunately various dead-looking ends were unanimous in saying that hotel La Serra was closed about 12 years ago and the complex is used only partly if at all.

This is generally sad and fascinating( as most abandoned, once thriving places are). More personally it made me realise that old flickers of hope are the most resilient. In reality it was only a small hotel that wanted to save on space and be original – but the kind of wonder and imagination we had as children about the unknown seems hard to fire up the older you get. Losing the possibility of fulfilling one of those dreams feels unfair, if only to the idea of yourself as an enchanted child.

copyright Filippo Poli

Hey, maybe I’ll go to Ivrea anyway, in honour of child-like wonder, or perhaps one day find a ‘ship hotel’ elsewhere.
It’s never too late, or so they say.


Photographs and info with thanks (and copyright) to Filippo Poli, Margarita Vazquez Ponte, and this facebook page.


6 thoughts on “Hotel La Serra – a childhood dream

  1. Thank You Elna,

    I never knew what had become of La Serra. I stayed there often in the 80s, visiting Olivetti. Trips to Ivrea were important businesswise, but also very impactful personally. My wife and two oldest daughters took one unforgettable trip to Europe that went to many of the top tourist meccas including Paris, London, and Geneva, but it started with a flight to Milan and two nights in Ivrea, with my daughters swimming with my Olivetti executives kids in Lake Sirio. La Serra was a very special place to me, and I will miss it, too.

    Thanks for the memories,
    Terry Fagin

  2. I stayed there several times in the mid-80’s, traveling to the Olivetti headquarters from Cupertino, California where we designed their very stylish line of personal computers. I have hoped to return to Northern Italy one day and explore the region even further.

  3. I worked for Olivetti in the 70’s, Tarrytown and NYC, and spent many weeks/months in Ivrea. Was recently telling a friend about the Carnivale and got my curiosity going. While on my honeymoon we stayed several days here as a base while exploring the Val D’Aosta. Sorry to see it run down. It was the premier hotel in town. Everything was within walking distance from La Serra. Brought my family back 17 years ago, my kids were awed never having experienced another culture. Thanks for reminding me of the good times

  4. Like the others here, I spent a great deal of time at La Serra during the mid-late seventies and it still holds a nostalgic place in my heart. The intricacies of the suites were a special delight. I was prompted to Google the hotel today when I came accross a small square ashtray, obviously “liberated” from the hotel as a memento 40 years ago…

  5. So Sad. I worked for Olivetti after they acquired my company Docutel in Texas. I became for a time the marketing director for “Olivetti USA” and traveled to Ivrea several times always staying at the iconic La Serra, once even with my wife. At marketing meetings, reps from around the world would congregate at the bar in the evenings. I remember once teaching them dollar-bill poker based on the serial numbers on the bills. Of course, we played with 1000-lire notes instead of US dollars! I even attended once during Ivrea’s amazing Carnivale; what a hoot that was!! What memories!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s