Roma Termini

Entering Roma Termini by train

It is hard to travel to Rome without encountering the chaotic central railway station called Roma Termini. Vittorio de Sica and Federico Fellini have both filmed the station. It also appeared briefly with George Clooney and Brad Pitt in Ocean’s Twelve. On previous trips to Rome I’ve always told myself that I would come back and photograph this awful monstrosity. This time I tried.

I’d thought that the grandiose and rather thoughtless terminal was built during the Fascist times. But it seems that the history of this station is more interesting. The first construction was started by Pope Pius IX just before the storming of Rome and the unification of Italy, and finished by the new Italian government. The grandiose side wings were indeed built during Mussolini’s rule, but the rest of the plan (image above) was never completed. The front hall was completed in 1950.

View of Roma Termini

On airport shuttles it is perfectly acceptable to let out your inner tourist. My phone was charged and ready to take photos. The last hundreds of meters as a train pulls into a major station are always terrifically photogenic in a way. The industrial landscape of merging tracks has a charm of its own. I arrived on a bright and sunny day, so the overhead equipment threw nice shadows on to the tracks. I was quite please at having taken the featured image.

Just outside the side galleries of the station are two tall towers. They look like something de Chirico could have painted. I managed to catch a photo as I passed (above). I would have liked to walk back and taken some from closer in. The towers surrounded by electrical wires and tracks are intensely photogenic.

Roma Termini shadows

The tourist information centre in the station is in one of Mazzoni’s galleries. The cafe next to it serves much better coffee than the shops in the front arcade of the station. I had my coffee and then walked into the information centre. The stairs climbing up towards the high vaulted roof is another thing one can photograph. There were people doing that. As I took out my camera and looked, two policemen came up to me and told me to stop. Italy is not as colour blind as Portugal.

From the main concourse one can still take photos that say something about how Mazzoni conceived of the station. The huge shadows on the marble walls (above) remind us of Mussolini’s delusions of grandeur which Mazzoni tried to transcribe into stone. Another example of this thinking is the difficulty of finding a toilet in the station: you either have to go up to the restaurant level and wait in a long queue, or go down to the metro level.

In other ways the station has improved tremendously since I was last here. There are ticket machines everywhere; they can be switched to English, and they are very easy to use. Since you can choose your train timing from a scrolling list, you don’t even need time-table information from the web. I walked out after a short stop at the three story high bookshop, Borri’s, which stands in the entrance lobby of the station. I’ve come back to it many times over the years, and I’m happy that it still continues to do business.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


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