Probably the nearly 60 millions of people who pass each year under its high ceilings and wait at its platforms do not know to be inside of what is called a masterpiece of Italian Rationalism. We’re talking about the station of Santa Maria Novella, the fourth Italian station in order of passenger flow; the present structure was built in the 1930s while the neighboring structures were built slightly before.

In its place in the first half of the nineteenth century Florence was served by two stations both designed by the architect Enrico Presenti: the Leopolda Station, for the line to Livorno, and the Maria Antonia Station , built in honour of the wife of the Grand Duke Leopoldo II , for the line to Prato and Pistoia. Because of the construction of this station, which was much more close to the church of Santa Maria Novella, in 1848 the gardens and some common areas attached to the church were sacrificed. When the two railway lines mentioned above were combined in 1860 it was decided to identify as the central station Maria Antonia, due to its closeness to the city centre , while the Leopolda station became just a freight yard on the outskirts of the city centre .

With the fall of the Grand Duchy, the station lost its original name and took Santa Maria Novella, but kept its nineteenth century style until the Thirties of the twentieth century.

The first project of expansion and renovation of the station, which was required due to the increase of services and passengers, was asked by the then Minister of Railways Costanzo Ciano to the architect Angiolo Mazzoni, to whom we owe many of the structures that surround the station, but not the station itself. The project of upgrade by Mazzoni aroused much criticism, and eventually the municipality of Florence had to start a competition for the creation of the new station . The winning design came from the so-called Tuscan Group , formed by Pier Nicholas Berardi , Nello Baroni , Italo Gamberini , Sarre Guarnieri , Lusanna Leonardo , Giovanni Michelucci , who created one of the most important works of the so-called Italian Rationalism (which would be theorized a little later). The basic idea of the project was that the structure had to reflect its function, namely the logic followed was the , but absolutely out of the architectural grandeur typical of fascism. But despite this also the leader was satisfied, especially after he was pointed out that the claimed top view seemed, apparently by chance, a fasces . Like all innovations the austere geometry of the new station aroused warm acclaims, such as by young intellectuals of Cafè delle Giubbe Rosse (including Vittorini, Alexander Bonsanti and Roman Bilenchi) and open disagreements between conservatives dissatisfied guided by Ugo Ojetti .

The group led by Michelucci won the competition among more than 100 projects submitted, by providing a perfect balance between formal beauty and functionality , which still receives under its high vaulted million travellers, mostly unaware that they have only to raise their eyes to admire a unique piece in the history of Italian architecture.

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