Thursday, July 28, 2011
Milan's central train station, or Stazione di Milano Centrale, was a project that began in the early 1900s but was continued and expanded over a long period, particularly by Benito Mussolini (Italy's Fascist leader from 1925 to 1943).
I didn't manage to get a picture of the outside of the station, but here is one I found online. The facade looks more like an over-sized Baroque/Classical mash-up done in poor taste by a 20th century Napoleon, which actually comes close to the truth since the pseudo-regal structure works well as a kind of visual metonym for Mussolini's public works schemes (including transportation systems). It was Mussolini who was said to have "made the trains run on time"--a dubious statement, of course.
I don't know if Mussolini, a fan of extreme efficiency, would have been too keen on the apparent chaos of Stazione Centrale. It seemed to be functioning, but any order that was there looked more like an emergent property than an obvious arrangement.
Like at Heathrow airport in London, they didn't announce there the trains would leave from until fairly close to the departure time. The area around the platforms was a current of human motion, torrents of tourists and commuters flowing towards the next train as its platform number appeared on the information screen, rivulets swirling into eddies of conversation in the bustle of travellers trying to reach the right departure place before all the seats were taken.
And I still remember it was apparently OK to smoke cigarettes inside the station.