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Period Postcards from Naples

postcard # 19 - 
know a lot of old-timers in Naples who will look at this card and say, "You know, I remember that station. What a shame they tore it down."  Some problem on the date - June 19, 1903 (9?). This is the old main train station set in the middle of Piazza Garibaldi. You are looking east. Mt. Vesuvius is a little to the right, out of the picture.

At the time of the unification of Italy (1861), Naples had two train stations, set side by side on via dei Fossi, now known as Corso Garibaldi. (That is about 400 meters behind and to the right of where this photo was taken, 
approximately where the current Naples terminus is of the narrow-gauge Circumvesuviana railway.) One was owned and operated by the Bayard Society (builders of the first train in Italy some years earlier) and was the Naples terminus for trains directed to Salerno; the other belonged to the Regia Society and ran trains to Rome.

The decision was made to build a new main station, the one in this photo.The architect was Errico (alias Enrico) Alvino; the chief engineer was Paul Amilhan. The plan was to build a neo-Renaissance structure, and it was certainly that! (Take a second to look at it. I, too, am sorry they tore it down.) It opened to traffic on May 7, 1867 and was completely finished in 1869. There were six tracks. The main façade faced west onto Piazza Garibaldi, and there were gardens in front. The remarkable statue/fountain of the siren, Parthenope, by Buccino and Jerace was installed within the station in 1869 (and moved to its current location, Piazza San Nazzarro, in 1924.) In the meantime, the square was enlarged and the large monument to Garibaldi was installed at the west end in 1904.

The train station quickly became inadequate for Naples of the 1920s, so they opened up the interior by moving the platforms back quite a ways and adding new tracks. This essentially moved the "working" station to the east, away from the
façade and center of the square. Today's newer station maintains that configuration; the entrance practically is the east side of Piazza Garibaldi. The center is taken up by traffic lanes and entrances to the subterranean caverns beneath the square; that is, there is now a commercial city down there. That, too, is an idea that started in the 1920s. At the same time as they were expanding the train station you see here, below the square  they built an underground station to be the eastern terminus of the new underground metro train line coming from the west, from the new Mergellina train station, which opened in October of 1927. The station at Mergellina was part of a general plan to develop the western side of the city, Chiaia and Mergellina, site of new buildings and hotels, into a fashionable residential area. So you now had a new train line to and from Rome; instead of leaving from or arriving at the main station in the east, you could use the Mergellina station. It was so successful that it took some of the pressure off the main station at Piazza Garibaldi, and it also provided quick service between Mergellina and the main station by way of the underground line. (Today, that situation has been reversed. Trains no longer leave from Mergellina to Rome. The new hi-speed super-trains leave from the main station at Piazza Garibaldi and make the run to Rome in just over one hour if they don't fly off the tracks. These days, from Mergellina it's only two metro stop to get into the city.

The old station in the postcard was heavily bombed in WWII. Finally, in 1954 they decided to eliminate the structure completely. They did it in rather piecemeal fashion, first commissioning a team of architects to build a new passenger terminal behind it, providing access to essentially the same tracks that the old station used. When the time came (1960), they demolished the old station. They wanted to save the neo-Renaissance facade, but that was impractical. It all came down. It had had a good run, though—almost a century.

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