The Great Roof

March 19, 2015 / Places
Milano, Lombardia

Forget for a second that the train hurtling you across the country at upwards of 200 miles per hour is outfitted like a private jet on the inside. If you were to just go by appearances on arrival at Milano Centrale, you would swear you have stepped straight off the train and right into the 1920s and 30s.


As one the grand iron architectural works of industrializing Europe, its trusses remind you immediately of the standard bearer of this kind of work, the Eiffel Tower.


Size too… at 72 meters wide and 35 meters tall, the central nave of the station (there are multiple “smaller” ones off each side) is similar to any one of the four great arches at the base of the Eiffel Tower. Also, the station’s roof extends for 341 meters, greater even than the 301 meter height of the Tower in Paris.


The person responsible for its design was Alberto Fava, an engineer who cut his teeth building the many metal truss bridges for the railroad in northern Italy. Fitting, both symbolically and in terms of know-how, that he was given the job to build the station’s great roof where those same trains arrived.


No great locomotives belching jets of steam nowadays, but the beauty and complexity of the work still grab your attention as they surely did for travelers a century ago.

Many thanks for extra photos to Luca Setti, Wolfgang Pilcher, shatzy0_0, and Mekengi.




by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

13 Responses to “The Great Roof”

  1. Mary Cameron

    Thank you for reminding us (travelers and locals) to look UP on occasion! We miss so much when we just look at our steps.

  2. Great comparison with Eiffel Tower dimensions. Puts it into perspective.

  3. Sandi Spector

    Wonderful & fascinating. I’v never really “looked” at the station before after arriving there on so many trips to the city. I now must! A great note for the 2015 Expo visitors too. grazie

  4. Lucy Christie

    I was waiting for my husband one day at the Union Station in Toronto in the main corridor, watching people and then I looked up and all around me! I was in awe! And I have been there many many times, I look up now at everything. Even the sky is different and brilliant everyday.

  5. Valorie

    I love Milano Centrale!! It is gorgeous!!! Great people watching and the people are equally gorgeous and beautifully dressed! I could go on vacation just to Milano Centrale!

  6. Donato Bozza

    My eyes were immediately drawn to how immaculate every area shown in the photo is! I’m sure if I were there, if it weren’t for the trains, I wouldn’t feel like I was merely in a “train station”!!

  7. This stazione ferroviaria was my portal to and from Italy on several occasions. The contrast of the old and new is a real joy for me. Thanks for the memories..

  8. Herb Klinker

    We first set foot in Italy on the platform of Milano Centrale. I went to buy our tickets for Firenze while my wife waited for me. Soon she was approached by two Carabinieri, who asked for her documents. As I returned, I could see them pointing to the document and laughing, while my wife stood there looking confused, anxious, and stern. Then she too began to laugh. Approaching, I learned the source of their humor. When asked for her documents, she handed them my passport by mistake. They looked at it and said to her, “Donna brutta!” Even though we had been in Italy less than one hour, she knew what they said. Then they showed her the picture from my passport and laughingly repeated, “Donna brutta!”

    We say that our love for Italy began that day, on that platform in Milano Centrale, when two complete strangers made us feel like family, with laughter. a truly special place!

  9. marianna raccuglia

    Wonderful photos, interesting information-thank you for this informative article

  10. Peter Resch

    We visited Milano in 2013 and the Milano Centrale was our introduction to this awesome city.
    I loved rolling into the station and seeing the hive of activity on the platform. Stepping off the train we were hit with the buzz of people and trains arriving and departing. The station offers an abundant number of sights if you just take a moment to take them in. Look around at the details of the architectue, it’s an art form in itself.
    We enjoyed a very nice lunch break in the Centrale Bar. It’s a kid friendly deli style restaurant that offered a great variety of tasty options.


Leave a Reply