Milano Centrale, Italy

Ode to a railway station

Milano Centrale

I love the Milano Centrale railway station, I always have. I’ve seen it grimy and scary with drug addicts hanging on the stairs, almost had my bag pickpocketed in the piazza infront of the station (unsuccessfully, a young trainee it seemed, he had an older man behind him probably training him!  I sensed the boy (12 to 13 year old) and turned to see him stretching out his hand. I responded by yelling at him, my aunt laughed and asked in what language when I told her what had happened. In English I replied, I don’t have the same turn of phrase and vocabulary in Italian!) Even today I saw that that grassed edges of the piazza (the central part has been cleaned up and repaved) has groups of African immigrants just sitting around, a stark reminder of the crisis Italy is facing with the waves of immigrants making their way in boats across the Mediterranean to Europe. It’s a major humanitarian crisis as the numbers are overwhelming Italy. To me it appeared that there were quite a large number there the days I was going in and out of the station. Not doing anything, just sitting.

I love the station for its over the top architecture, reflective of the era when it was built. Mussolini actively encouraged this architectural grandeur and the station was opened in 1931, seeing it now it’s very much a statement of ‘look how great we are’. It’s wonderful in its awfulness.

View from the piazza which has been repaved and cleaned up.

A few years ago, I was in Milan and saw that the station was undergoing a major refurbishment, the inside at least all the stonework was cleaned. It went from being black and grimy to white and gleaming. The outside though hasn’t been cleaned. With the station having such high ceilings, new floors were inserted, these now have a variety of shops.

The stairs used to go right across, it was a great sweeping staircase up to the platform level. With the refurbishment, the stairs were cut into and a walkway to the mezzanine floors put in. The left of the photo with the larger steps is where the drug addicts would hang out, away from the cold.

The large central entrance, the stonework has the signs of the zodiac.

Going out into the piazza

I actually flew into Milan, but caught the airport shuttle that drops people into central Milan at the side of the station. I went through and took some photos of this monument to self-aggrandizement.

Mussolini very much encouraged looking back to the Roman era, trying to make parallels with wanting modern era greatness as well. So there are Roman images throughout the station.

Another image of power and strength, there are stone eagles all around the station.

Leaving by train from the station has changed as well, the platforms used to be open and anyone could go out onto them. Now at each opening glass doors have been fitted, the electronic board tells you what gate to enter by for the train you want to catch and then you’re checked to see that you have a valid ticket. No more waiting on the platform to greet a person coming off the train! There’s also an increased police and military presence in the station as well I noticed, there are quite a few uniformed people around, considering the station is huge and the number of travellers that use the station, it feels quite safe wandering around.

The Mezzanine levels, there are now 3 floors where once there was 2. The new floors have low ceilings and are linked by escalators.

Before entering the actual station, you come through this enclosed area, taxis used to pull up here (now they arrive at the right side of the station) This whole area, plus the piazza in front are a pedestrian only area.

Having family members that moved to Milan years ago, and the fact that Milan is a transport hub, I’ve been travelled through countless times. (Literally countless times I have no idea how many!) In the past few years the changes in the station haven’t just been cosmetic, it used to have somewhat of a dowdy, seen better days, a bit seedy feel to it. Not anymore, it’s still as busy probably more so, now it’s become somewhat trendier!

I think these are the names of the architects.Their names forever associated with their wondrous creation!

Right side of the station, the stonework outside hasn't been cleaned, no idea why not.

Milano Centrale is a major transport hub, it has a huge amount of traffic moving from its platforms. But the station itself is worth seeing just for its grandeur. (Eclectic content on this blog, dear Reader, we go from the beauty of Lake Como to the monument a dictator built to self-aggrandisement!)