I’ve spent a good part of my life in Italy and I can tell you that this country would be in deep trouble if it weren’t for its railway system. It comes as no surprise then that there is a museum dedicated to the country’s trains and its history. The National Railway Museum of Pietrarsa on the outskirts of Naples celebrates over 170 years of the evolution of the railway system in Italy.
That there is a National Railway Museum on the outskirts of Naples is not nearly as surprising to me as the fact that I spent 6 years living in Naples and never even heard of it during all that time. Yet another interesting facet of the local Ministry of Tourism to be sure. But no matter. Find it I did and it was worth the wait.
The Railway Museum of Pietrarsa was built and organized in an old Bourbon factory and come to think of it I believe this is the only such museum in Italy and by all accounts one of the most important in all of Europe.
The railway museum was established in 1977 and has been closed and reopened no less than 3 times as it continues to house new collections. It s broken down in to halls or sectors. The first section (A) is the Assembly building and is dedicated to steam engines that have been preserved from Italy’s golden age of railway service. That would be the early 1900’s when there really was a certain prestige in riding the rails. And in fact there is a reproduction therein of one of the first Italian trains.
Moving right along to sections B and C, visitors can see preserved carriages and the like. Of particular interest is the Presidential train (built in 1928) which is a perfect example of royal excess: you’ll marvel at the presidential dining hall with a table decorated with mahogany eight meters long to sit a party of 26. The ceiling is inlaid with gold foil and medallions with coats of arms of Italy’s four maritime republics.
Proceed to section D, E and F to find five preserved diesel locomotives, a replica of the first hydraulic transmission in addition to machine and tool shops of an era long since faded to memory hen it comes to handiwork and craftsmanship.
Section G is the oldest part of the museum because the original structure was built in 1840. Nicknamed “the Cathedral” due to it high, pointed arched ceilings, this portion of the exhibit hall housing a variety of materials and objects of interest related to trains and the railway system.
All in all a very interesting way to pass a couple of hours. When I think of all the times I tried to catch a train in Italy or worse yet found out at the last minute a railworker’s strike had cancelled train service, I find it strangely appealing that a museum is dedicated to the history of the Italian railway service. Despite itself, this country now boasts one of the most efficient railway systems in Europe.
Operating Hours: Open from Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 1.30 pm. The Museum is closed on all holidays. Tickets are 5 euros, and entrance is free for children under the age of 6 years, old and also free for seniors and those with disabilities.
Guided tours: Saturday and Sunday by reservation for groups of not less than 30 visitors (request can be made via email at [email protected]).
Directions to the Museum: in addition to urban public transport, you can use the train Metro Naples p. Garibaldi – Salerno/Torre Annunziata. The Museum entrance is opposite the station Pietrarsa/San Giorgio a Cremano and accessed using the subway station.
For more information: Contact the museum at 081-472003.