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Our Italy Trip Continues

November 07, 2018

Our Rail Tour of Italy is cruising along smoothly. In the past couple of days we have visited Florence, Bologna, and now find ourselves in the beautiful city of Milan. A great deal of excitement has been packed into the last few days, so here's a quick recap to date.

Tuesday morning before we left Rome we were fortunate enough to meet with representatives from NTV, the parent company of Italo, which operates private high-speed train service throughout the country. We were given a wonderful presentation and shown around their business class lounge in Rome's Termini station. Soon enough it was time for us to catch our train to Florence, and off we went!

From Rome we took our first high-speed train of the trip to Florence. Built in segments starting in 1977, the Rome-Florence high-speed line was the first of its kind built in Europe. The full line was completed in 1992. High-speed trains to Florence end up at Santa Maria Novella Station. This station was built in the 1930’s in the rationalist style of architecture and has one of the most architecturally significant recent buildings of any station. The station is so named because it faces directly across from a church of the same name. It serves 160,000 people per day and is a major hub for other transit options.

Currently under construction is the Florence Belfiore High Speed Station, set to be completed in 2021. Aiming to be one of the biggest transportation hubs in the region, this station will be connected to Santa Maria Novella in the historic heart of Florence by local trains and a recently-completed light rail line. Construction of Belfiore station started in October 2010.  It is designed by the British architects Foster & Partners and Arup as a huge open space which will make the trains stopping at the underground platforms visible from the surface. The station’s platform level will be set 25 meters below ground level, with the rest of the station rising up above it. Take a look at their project website for more detailed renderings and stats regarding this soon-to-be monumental station.

Once the group was settled in Florence we were able to tour the city a little bit via their newly revived tram system. Their system attracts over 14 million users per year and is continuing to expand. The newest line which extends to the Florence airport is set to be in service by the end of the year. Check out this video which takes you through the Florence tram system, including the newest line that just opened this past summer.

After a lovely dinner and overnight in Florence, it was time to get a move-on once again via high-speed train to Bologna. This high-speed line is relatively newly built and started operations in 2009, compared to the conventional railway which was built in 1934. The high-speed line takes the trip time down to under 40 min and is almost completely composed of underground segments broken up with short viaduct sections. This brochure from RFI, owner of the Italian railroads, explains many of the construction details and shows the route of the new line compared to that of the old.

Arriving in Bologna, we pulled into the city's Centrale Station (pictured above). This station is the fifth busiest rail station in Italy in terms of passenger count, but is even more busy in terms of train movements, with about 800 per day. Its architecture is inspired by the neoclassical style and was built in 1871. In 2013 a new modern station was built underneath the original structure to accommodate expanded train connections and become a new transit hub.

After touring Bologna's main station we took a bus ride for a better look at the high-speed line and the new Reggio Emilia AV Mediopadana railway station, which is the only high-speed station between Bologna and Milan. The station’s imposing structure, built with over 14,000 tons of steel, serves as a sort of gateway to the Po River Valley and the greater region’s transport system. The station is built around the existing viaduct, with the main entrance and retail at ground level and the tracks and platforms above. This slide show from the main architect, Santiago Calatrava, shows different views of the impressive structure.

Shortly after passing through the Reggio Emilia station, we came to the Po River bridge, which was built in 2005. The Po River is Italy’s longest river, and this rail line crosses it just north of Piacenza. The design is that of a cable-stayed bridge with a main span length of 192 meters. Check out these images of the imposing structure from Tensa, who was the structural engineering firm in charge of the project.

After a whirlwind day we ended in Milan for a delicious meal and some much-needed rest. Today we're ready to tour several train stations along with a few historic sites before heading off to Turin tomorrow. We'll have more exciting updates coming soon so be sure to keep following along with us!