Roma Termini Station.
I think it’s natural for the reader to wonder why I wrote about a train station, and I think I could find so many answers to fill the article using just those.
The truth, always if the truth exists, is that I am still waiting for the train, right here in front of the most important Italian railway station. And if the old saying goes that all roads lead to Rome, you’d think that the same applies to the tracks.
Here comes a train from the deep south, so that on the banks is flooding herds of southern people, veterans by fifteen hours of travel, exausted in their dark faces by what is often ironically referred to as “the path of hope” in memory of the film by the good old Pietro Germi.
Not as the travelers of the “Southern Scum” (as we love to named our train from tho South of Italy) comes from the sulfur mines of Agrigento, of course. Among them there are teachers substituting at a who-knows-where situated college and university students ready to explore the big city, also soldiers with their military camouflage uniforms that do not blend in at all between civilians and dark eyed beautiful girls with the warm typical movements like those of the girls of the south.
Yet the faces are not very different from those of the great movie by Germi, almost as if the poor conditions of the Sicilian sulfur miners are awful like a trip on that damn express train.
The espresso, instead, was being tasted slowly by a distinguished gentleman at the cafe, whom, after lighting up a sigarette, directed himselm calmly towards the area of the fast-speed trains: “Red Arrow, Silver Arrow, Niki Lauda Arrow (I made up the last one, just a joke), trains which cut the north-central Italy as a machete cuts the butter, covering the distances between cities in such a short time that the last time I got in one of those jalopy I even have not had the time to start the usual corny speeches with an anonymous seatmate. The alienation of modern transportation, right?
There was something romantic, after all, about riding the good old-fashioned trains finding yourself talking for hours with strangers whom at the end of the trip became like old friends, sharing stories and cigarettes, sandwiches and laughts. And maybe you’d end up waiting with them for a train connection you had to pick up later. How nice would have been if it’d happen to me right now, now that I’m in Rome by myself.
Do you know it is no longer called Roma Termini any more, did you know? It’s called Station John Paul II. They also put his statue somewhere and that idea makes me smile. Certainly not for something against the enthusiastic Polish Pope, of course. Let’s say I find it ironic that this place takes the name of the ex bishop of Rome when its earlier name was in honor of the Diocletian’s Baths, the emperor of the last great persecution against Christians. But Aurelius Valerius Diocles in Rome Termini station’s history has very little to do, and much more relevant are the residents in the Vatican. We owe, in fact, the birth of the capitoline station right here in this area of the Esquiline to the pressures of a Belgian Monsignor, who had businesses there, lands. After all it was 1862 and the temporal power of the popes was passing on to the Eternal City, it was necessary to seize the last opportunities before that work fell into the hands of the Savoy, in fact soon after the city fell. And after the Pope and the King, as in the rest of Italy, came the “Duce”. So the dear old Termini Station went incorporated within the fascist restructuring plan that the peninsula went through. Too bad that the project of architect Mazzoni was from 1938, so the years, and also the project, passed hand to hand, until it appeared back, in its new form, in December 20, 1950 , becoming one of the finest examples of Italian Rationalism, still imprinted in all its renewed splendor in the movie “Stazione Termini” by De Sica.
A beautiful story, too bad that there’s no one to tell it to… Except you, that is.
But maybe I’ll find someone in the next train line I have to do. Yes, because my train arrived and I went to take a seat, so that no one steal me a seat in one of the head carriages, so that by looking out the window I can see the tail coaches that will chase tail all the travel without ever reaching me.
Because even Rome Termini station and the “South scum” are part of the journey.
Because the journey starts back at home, when we close the door of our home behind us and the cafe where we have breakfast or the little garden where we take the dog for a walk fades away behind our back.
There, where our habits ends and we begin to look around with the eyes of the traveler, perhaps focusing the gaze on the endless serie of graffiti that stand there to welcome or greet us when we get away from Roma Termini station.
Have you ever noticed them? I did. I also have my favorite: 1UP.
A simple writing that you can find repeated in larger or smaller versions for the entire route.
A life, like in the old arcade videogmes that were all around in penny arcades.
And it is great to live it traveling.
(Thanks to Mattero for this beautiful post)