The town of Ivrea

The UNESCO town

The town of Ivrea, on the Po River, close to Turin, has 23.000 inhabitants. In 2018 it was declared a city protected by UNESCO.  Several of her monuments are going back to Roman and medieval times.

Ivrea’s carnival celebrations are broadcasted in Italy, especially during the oranges’ battle, a tradition dating back to 1808.

Ivrea is also very famous for his restaurants and elaborate food, which is due perhaps to French influence. Two cakes are at the top of the list.  And we know of several people coming from afar to taste them.

The first is the Cake ‘900. Its preparation is a patented secret as the formula for CocaCola. It is made with two layers of “pan di Spagna” with chocolate. Several tried to copy it, but only the Balla bakery can make it.

Also very famous is the Cake of the brothers Strobbia. It is a small cake they invented in 1922, and they patented it. Brown color with a yellow core.  They both can be tasted with “vin brulé” or with dark and hot coffee.


But most Italians when they ear the city’s name, they think of Olivetti. Typewriters, modern design, great new ideas. During the fifties and sixties, here was the Italian Silicon Valley.

Here was conceived the first computer by a Chinese citizen born in Rome. His name was Mario Tchou, a brilliant Chinese electronic engineer who became the head of Olivetti’s research center in Italy, and then died in a tragic car crash (beautiful women and fast cars were his passions). Tchou died in 1961, right before the presentation of his computer Elea 6001.

Sandro Sartor, who was part of the group of 50 engineers going and coming from Ivrea to Milan, still remembers Tchou: ‘He was the most intelligent man I have ever met in my life, and he was so good to keep together a bunch of eccentric young boys.’

Piergiorgio Perotto, the right-hand man of Tchou, went on to produce the first real desktop computer.  It was called Programma 101, and when it was presented at an exhibition in New York in 1965, it caused a sensation, with The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal giving it front-page coverage.