Italy’s Largest Train Station
Rome’s Termini train station is Europe’s second largest station, only Paris’ Gare du Nord, sees more travelers. The name derives from the nearby ruins of the Baths of Diocletian, hence the name ‘Termini’ from ‘Terme’ for baths.
After the opening of the two papal railways: Rome-Frascati (1856) and Rome-Civitavecchia (1859), and having another couple of railway lines on the drawing board, a problem arose: should Rome have a train station for each line, such as Paris, or should it have a single terminus for all rail lines to come? Under pressure from Monsignor de Merode, who had financial interests in the area between where the station now stands and Via Nazionale (also planned by him), the second option was chosen and the area of the ‘Terme di Diocleziano’ selected as the location for the new railway station.
The first station was started in 1862 and opened in 1863, named: ‘Stazione Centrale delle Ferrovie Romane’ (Roman Railways Central Station). At same the time, the Rome-Ceprano (later to Naples) line was officially opened. The preliminary works for the new Termini station were started in 1868 and officially blessed by pope Pius IX. The project was then designed and built to the plan of architect Salvatore Bianchi. Various interruptions occurred after Rome became part of the new Kingdom of Italy but finally, in 1874 the station was completed.
Following the standard railway station plans of the time, Termini station had two parallel buildings: one for departures, one for arrivals, connected by a single central metal roof, similar to the Gare de l’Est built in Paris. Six head tracks – two of which did not have walkways for passengers – were placed under the metal roof. The cargo area, engine depot, and maintenance, were located on the north side. All these plants were later moved to allow more tracks and new walkways for passengers. The old station’s façade, was 200 meters longer than it is now, thus it covered almost the entire length of Piazza dei Cinquecento. In 1883 new electrical lights were installed under the roofs and inside the station itself. In 1935, electric power coming from northern Italy (Turin), allowed electric powered trains coming from Florence, to reach Termini.
In 1930 it was decided to modernize Rome’s railway hub. Obviously the main project would have been the construction of a new Termini station, made bigger and more appropriate to handle the new passenger loads which had grown much larger over the previous century. So, in 1939 a final project, by architect Angiolo Mazzoni, was approved. This project dealt with a new railway plan. The works began by demolishing what architect Bianchi had built and raising two new lateral bodies. Construction of the new Termini was discontinued after the Fascist Regime collapsed in 1943 and the war being fought on Italian soil.
After the war, the project was abandoned since by now much of it was obsolete. However, fixtures, shelter roofs, and the two lateral bodies were already in place. The Ministry of Transport thus decided to announce a competition for the new façade, which was won by architects Calini-Montuori and by a group led by architect Vitellozzi. So the station was completed and opened in 1950 according to a new vision, incorporating an impressive double-curved cantilever roof. A piece of art considered one of the most important of the Italian Rationalism movement.
The actual station as we can see it today, is characterized, on the outside, by the long and sinuous cement cantilever roof, better known as the ‘Dinosaur’ and the long, thin windows emphasizing the horizontal offices. The station’s frieze, is the first main work by the Hungarian sculpture, Amerigo Tot.
The access to the trains is on a ‘rubber road’ walkway, which runs from one end to the other of the main terminal, from which all the station’s facilities can be immediately reached. The main gallery is filled with stores, fast-food kiosks and bars, all forming the so-called: ‘Forum’. On the outside used to stand the tall, ‘Osram’ lamp post (now removed), an outstanding meeting point for all Romans and visitors. Restored for the year 2000 Jubilee, Termini station, became an important reference point for Romans and tourists alike, thanks primarily to the ‘Forum Termini’, a huge commercial center located below street level. In October 2016 the station opened its “Mercato Centrale”, a gourmet paradise, similar to the one in Florence.
Termini has also an excellent shuttle train system which reaches the Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (Fiumicino) in 30 minutes. Also, in 2006, Termini Station was dedicated by the mayor of Rome to Pope John-Paul II.