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Monday, July 6, 2015

Rome's New Metro Line: Walking the Walk.

The pristine travertine stairs and escalators at the Lodi station, on its pre-opening day tour
On June 29 Rome's transit system accomplished what many thought it might never do - it opened new Metro line C with 6 stations.  In theory line C had been opened earlier, further out of Rome, but that was just a refurbishing of an above-ground train line already in existence.  The 6 stations and 5.4 kilometers of track opened recently are the true accomplishment, because they actually put line C IN Rome, rather than way outside of it.

Men in Black
We took advantage of a rather unusual offer in late April. The 6 newest stations were open a few hours on April 29 for self-guided tours, even though there were no trains running.  To see them all, one had to drive or walk between them.  So we made it our goal to do a 6-station trek, and back.  We figured, oh, 5+ km x 2 - we had to get back to our moto without the metro, of course - that's only 7 miles and we're used to that.  Oh, how wrong we were... but for now to the features of that day - the stations.

The line is billed as from "Mirti" to "Lodi" because the outer part of the line, the old train line, is already operating.  But Lodi is the most central of the Rome portion of the line - to date. The line still doesn't hook up with either of the other 2 operating lines - A and B, but it will when the San Giovanni station is added in, supposedly, 2016.
A visitor checks out the line - it's the part in red we're visiting.

So we showed up at the "Lodi" station - named for its proximity to Piazza Lodi - at noon, when the stations were to open.  Well, we were 5 minutes early.  So you can see the guys in black blocking the entrance until the appointed hour. And it turns out, guys in black were at every station, being very one-might-say fascist-like in ordering the few people coming to see the stations which way to go in and out, protecting fenced areas, and the like.  Part of the ambiance of the day.

Lodi is undistinguished from the outside.  It has only surface level entrances.  Below it has some of the grand travertine staircases and it looks wonderfully shiny new, of course.  So we dutifully walked down all the levels, and up, and marched on to the next station.

Pigneto station skylight, outside

Pigneto comes next, and this is a long-awaited station in a rapidly gentrifying, even hipster neighborhood of Rome.  Pigneto's station is more interesting, with an enormous skylight.  And here we learned about the "TBM", "Tunnel Boring Machine" (yep, that's Italian) used to create the metro openings below ground without opening up the ground from the surface and then

skylight, inside
recovering it, as Rome has done for prior lines.
Display photo of Pigneto station under construction.
This process minimizes the problems of archeological finds.  As former Mayor Rutelli put it to us once, one can dig at 35 meters, but not between 15 and 35 meters.  Of course, since it's Pigneto, we were treated to lots of street art as we came back up and started our walk to our third station, Malatesta.
Leftist graffiti in Pigneto

Dianne interviewed by radio reporter at Malatesta station
Malatesta is one of the more elaborate stations. That's the reason, we assume, it was selected for Mayor Marino's visit.  So it was full of people. Enough so that a radio reporter interviewed me, in Italian, on my reactions to the new stations. And our timing was good enough that Bill got a photo of the mayor.

Photo op for mayor (red tie) and cohorts.
Unlike the other stations, this one had a train car open to visit.  Helps to have the Mayor around.  It was here we learned from the instructive panels that this line is "driverless" (again, Italian).  Whoa, that's a bit scary.
Inside the cars

"Data (I Numeri) of the "Driverless trains"":
80 km/hr maximum; 35 km/hour normal; 1200 passengers
per trip; + or - 30 centimeters - leeway in terms of where
they stop at the stations.

Open stairs lead down into the Malatesta station

Walking out of the Malatesta station to the next one, Teano, we were reminded that, yes, old Rome still exists.
We passed some old medieval-like buildings, towers, agricultural land, and then a pretty strange building for Rome.

Opera sets were stored here.
We read later it was built in the 1950s and stored opera sets and costumes!  It's been repurposed partly as a school and community center.  And, across from it is perhaps the most interestingly-designed station. The ATAC Web site tells us that the "atrium" is meant to be used for commercial activity and cultural events.
Teano station

Atrium for commerce and cultural events, Teano

The prosaic Gardenie station.

1930s public housing in the far-flung suburbs.
The 5th station, Gardenie, again is ordinary. Outside it we were reminded that the Fascists built public housing out this far in the 1930s, sending workers far away from where the jobs might be, and sending any potential challengers to the regime out of communication with the city.

We ended up at Mirti in Centocelle, a once disparaged suburb of Rome that is reviving a bit, and certainly the metro line will help that.
That's a victory sign at Mirti, as well as storm clouds brewing.
 Besides having time to give the victory sign, we found a tour group in this station and we learned more about the entire project (including the use of the TBMs).
Tour group at the Mirti station.

At this point, we figured we probably had walked close to 10 miles - the 5.4 km is the way the Metro or crow flies.  Walking between stations is much more circuitous.  Plus we went up and down the stairs at each station (the escalators weren't operating). And it was starting to rain.

Dianne checks the various transit options.
Walking another 4 or 5 miles back to our moto was ruled out.  While celebrating our 6-station triumph with a glass of wine in Centocelle at a familiar bar there, we discovered the "trenino," or urban train, was not far away.  So we walked over to it, through the familiar non-glitzy underpass of existing Rome transit, to catch the train back reasonably close to "Lodi" and our moto.

What the 'normal' transit underground looks like.

The Italians are good at design, and these stations are striking in their pristine state.  We don't want to think what they might look like if the graffiti artists get busy on them.  This project connects some of these far flung suburbs and we hope makes Romans living in them feel more in touch with the city itself.
Video in the station teaching kids to hang on.

We'll do a check in 2016 to see how the system is progressing.


Study in black and white

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