Wrapping Up Our Trip

November 12, 2018

The main portion of our 2018 Rail Study Tour of Italy came to a close this weekend after making making our way from Milan to our last stop in Turin. Here's a look at the many activities and sights we were fortunate enough to experience before we headed back to Rome on Saturday.

We had a full day of sightseeing and station tours of Milan on Thursday, one of which was Milano Centrale station, the largest rail station in Europe by volume. The original station was built in 1864 but was replaced in the 1930’s following increased traffic volume caused by the opening of the Simplon Tunnel in 1906. Milano Centrale has HSR connections to Turin, Venice, Bologna, Rome, Naples, and Salerno, as well as several international rail connections to Switzerland. While some regional rail service is connected here as well, Milan suburban trains use other mainline stations in the city as their terminals. Pictured right is the bustling entrance hall to the station's head house.

We used Milan’s tramway system to get around the city. The trams are operated by ATM and have been in operation since 1876. Milan’s system did not cease operations because of the two World Wars like Florence’s, but soon thereafter many lines were replaced by metro and bus lines. The present network, consisting of 17 urban and one interurban line, is a result of a revival that took place in the 1990’s. Milan’s system still runs some older rolling stock (some dating back to the late 1920's), mixed in with modern cars. It was a pleasure to tour the city on the trams.

After a full day of sightseeing we spent the night in Milan and then woke up bright and early to head to Turin via high-speed train. We toured both Porto Nuova and Porta Susa stations while in town. Turin’s Porta Susa station was built in 2013, with AREP leading its design. The development of this station was part of a broader project to expand tracks while also connecting two parts of the city that were previously kept divided by the railway. Like many other modern stations, its key features are visibility, abundance of natural light, and presence of green space. Take a look at this video which shows a comprehensive look at the station and the thought process behind its design.

Turin’s other station, Porta Nuova, is the city’s original station and was opened to the public in 1864. It is the third busiest station in Italy behind Rome Termini and Milano Centrale stations. It underwent renovations in 2009 to upgrade and modernize the interior space to accommodate more retail and leisure space, while the outside retained its original character.

The Turin tramway network is composed of 10 lines that work in conjunction with the city’s metro and bus systems to make up their public transit network. This map from GTT, Turin's local transit agency, displays all three complete system routes, along with other intercity routes, and shows just how comprehensive the system is in terms of transit coverage.

Saturday it was a bittersweet trip back to Rome as the main part of the trip came to a close. Those who opted for the extended trip spent the night in Rome only to wake up the next morning and head out once again, this time on the high-speed train to Naples. This line was built in two phases, with the first segment built in 2005 and covering about 120 miles. The final portion of about 16 miles to Naples was finally completed in 2017 because of several construction delays. The longest tunnel on this line is four miles long and goes through the Alban Hills, a volcanic region with hilly terrain just east of Rome.

Naples’ Afragola station is located about 3 km north of the city, near the suburb of Afragola. The station began construction in early 2017 and the project is still ongoing, with the station open to passengers in the meantime. The station is expected to be a hub for further development, as well as a cultural landmark due to its architectural features. The total footprint for the station will be 20,000 square meters, which includes a nature park and other facilities. This video was produced by the architects for the station, Zaha Hadid, and highlights some of its striking design features.

Naples has a regional train system called the Circumvesuviana that is unique in that it is not part of the Italian rail network. These trains run every 30 min, have inexpensive fares, and are designed similarly to metro trains with lots of standing room. We took these trains to visit Pompei ruins, which are just a 10 min walk from the quaint train station in town.

After our time in Naples, today we headed to Bari for some extra sightseeing. A high-speed line is under construction along this route to connect Naples to Bari via Foggia, where a high-speed segment to Bari is already complete. Once the line is operational, it will reduce the total trip time to Bari by just over an hour and a half. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2022, and has been divided into eight project segments, most of which are being constructed simultaneously, and include several sections of tunnels and viaducts. The state’s project website shows its progress as well as close up maps of each project section.

Tomorrow we head once again back to Rome to wrap the trip up and then head home. It's been a whirlwind, but we've loved every minute of our tour of Italy by train. A special thanks goes to the Society of International Railway Travelers for assisting in putting the trip together. All of our wonderful experiences would not have been possible without them!

Thanks for following along--we hope you can join us next time wherever we might be headed!