Sometimes, places that are transit points for many, can become a destination in itself. I had been to Milano Central railway station many times before, on my way to somewhere else, to the city, or even changing subway trains under it. Surely, I had realized the spacious, impressive building above me, and in the back of my mind, decided to pay it s separate visit - without using its transportation function. So it was, on a clear summer day, that I approached the enormous building from the northwestern side. You can find several styles in and around this building: art déco, Liberty, and others. There are stretches of wall which appear quite straightforward, but always have decorations or symbols to break the monotony of the grey wall. You can find eagles, cows, and heads of lions, the emblem of the Italian Railways, but also the fasces, symbol of strength dating back to the Roman Empire. At the front side, the corners have a simple clock, but also winged horses and the Italian and European flag. While in general appearance squarish, pompous and grand, the station also has some more delicate parts and corners. The Duca dell'Aosta square in front of the station was under repair when I visited, so unfortunately I could not fully enjoy the view of the facade, which must be impressive if only because of its sheer size, this time around.
Entering the station changes your view of the building. It is still grand, with the ceiling very high above you, but at the same time, more intimate, with natural light falling in through the stained glass ceiling above. There are also decorated lights, which in some areas add to a feeling of cosiness. The platforms are actually considerably higher than street level, and wide stairs lead up from all sides. A major renovation is underway; when I visited, the inside was already finished and works were going on outside. Shiny shops can be found everywhere, the ticket office is almost hidden behind and between them. Moving walkways take you to the central hall from the newest part. Originally built in 1864, the current Milano Centrale railway station was started in 1906, and finally opened in 1931, designed by Ulisse Stacchini after the example of Union Station in Washington DC, one of those other grand stations.
The central hall of Milano Centrale station has enormous glass windows in its ceiling, the inevitable information boards; a blend of original signs like the huge Biglietteria and Uscita letters, tiled representations of Florence, Venice, and Rome, and modern electronic actual departure information boards. Unfortunately, the huge space is also filled with large commercial signs, degrading its interior look. Between the people hurrying to their train, waiting for a loved one, on their way home or far away, I walked around the hall, noticed mosaics with women and railways, and passed through to the actual platforms and tracks of the station. This is a wide area with an enormous, over 70m high coloured glass roof. Milano Centrale is a railway terminus, with all the 24 tracks under the gigantic roof. I walked to track 21, where not only original waiting and ticketing rooms can be found, but which also was the departure point for those deported after the German occupation of Italy in World War II. Besides the memorials for those fallen for Italy in both world wars, there is a message by Primo Levi in memory of those who were forced on a train to Auschwitz here. People rushed by to catch their train, and I walked back for a second glance at the outside of the station: I was not going anywhere today: Milano Centrale was my destination.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Milan Central Station (Italy). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Milan Central Station. Read more about this site.