Did you know that the first “Italian” railroad covered the Naples-Portici route and was inaugurated in 1839? And that the problems encountered in opening the Bologna-Florence route at the beginning of the 20th century were solved with the “Sarzanino” (passing through Parma and the Maremma region), thus allowing Giosuè Carducci to experience the “tall and straight cypresses” at Bolgheri? And that the same route was used on October 29, 1922 by Benito Mussolini as he “marched” on Rome in a comfortable sleeping car? All of us have memories of train experiences: childhood visits with grandparents, perhaps on local trains furnished with wooden seats; trips with friends, to participate in a demonstration in the capital or meet with a distant boy-/girl-friend; exhausting journeys to a military outpost or a workplace. Such memories are populated by nostalgic and faded images such as baggage, perhaps featuring an unusual hotel sticker, placed in overhead nets; vendors of bags of food on railway platforms; train whistles and a red-capped, austere-looking conductor consulting a pocket watch. This book also evokes railway stations – magical two-faced buildings, equally urban and industrial, with majestic façades and glass-and-cast iron projecting roofs, sites of prestige and architectural innovation – thus entertaining the reader with a journey from Turin and Milan to Naples, down Italy’s backbone: an unhurried narrative along high-speed tracks.
Enrico Menduni teaches Cinema, Photography and Television at the Third University of Rome and is a radio and television writer.