06 maggio 2018
Roma Tiburtina case study

This is a station designed and built to be the main node of high-speed trains for the city of Rome. The project proposes a station that would work as a bridge between two neighborhoods. Roma Tiburtina isn’t a Terminus station and for this reason, there are two parts of the cities disconnected from each other and with the station as well.  Nowadays, it is a new and unfinished station for several reasons: it must have been a bridge between neighborhoods; furthermore, the commercial function is disappearing (it is not even “born” and is already “dying” due to a management problem, a policy problem. It is not a bad as a project, but its implementation problem. In general if the station functions as a “center”,  suitable and appropriate activities will be located and established. Otherwise, if the station is an “external” part of the city, activities that are not suited to the context will be set up spontaneously in the district. Particularly in Roma Tiburtina there is a situation of chaos which is due to conflicting decisions; in other words, it is a continuous re-proposal of new projects with new ideas that make the process continually re-start. If a participatory process had been started in the past, the desired transformation could have been achieved for the Roma Tiburtina area. However, nobody can intervene in this area, except from the owners (this is what the law says). At this point the question arises in a spontaneous way: could a mixed approach (bottom-up and top-down) solve the functional problems that are present in the area around the Roma Tiburtina station?


Roma Tiburtina is one of the main stations of Rome, along with Roma Termini and Roma Ostiense. The station, originally called Portonaccio, was activated in 1866. The original station was enlarged and suffered serious damage during the Second World War and then it was rebuilt in a simplified form. The modernization of the station started in the 2007, in only 4 years the station was inaugurated. In 2011 the station was dedicated to Camillo Benso.

The station has 20 tracks, 500 trains per day, 136,000 daily transits and around 50 million annual passengers. It is served by high-speed trains north-south, and by some regional lines.

It is a station designed and constructed to be the main node of high-speed trains for the whole metropolitan area of Rome. The concept of constructing it was to be the symbol of an integrated planning example regarding the accessibility. Through the execution plan “Piano d’Assetto”, the Municipality of Rome together with the FS group have started a process of its redevelopment.


The station is on the railway ring of the city, the latest works as a border between the central area and the periphery of Rome. More specifically the station of Roma Tiburtina operates as a transitional area between two neighborhoods that have completely different character. In more detail the  “Nomentano” district, which is in the western part of the city center, is a very developed area whose buildings have a great architectural quality with poor connection between them. While the east neighborhood “Pietralata” is in the peripheral area of Rome and not very developed, where the important hospital complex “Pertini” is located. From the above it is understood that it is a complex case, where the any propose must make a connection and integration between the central area and the periphery. The integration of this station with the rest of the urban fabric had to provide a mobility-transport connection, but above all accessibility between the two urban areas.


The train station is a huge complex that has a large shopping center inside of the bridge on the railway. Hence, this construction allows accessibility towards the railway network, but most importantly it can be imagined as a bridge between the two neighborhoods.



The modification of the railway regulation, following the European regulations regarding the liberalization of the railway market, introduces the possibility to establish new functions inside the stations (such as commercial uses). At the same time, it specifies the rules on the transformability of railway areas, as long as the railway service is carried out on the area, it continues to be treated as a military domain (in fact in aerial photos up to the 1980s, stations and railway areas were obscured). In these areas, only the company that manages the railways can make all the transformations necessary for the railway service.

Regarding the governance of the railway system in Italy, there are many involved companies. Today there is a company RFI-Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (of the Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane Group), which manages the railway network (ex Ferrovie dello Stato) and in parallel deals with real estate assets (minor stations, different buildings in the railway areas). Among the other companies of the Group, there is Trenitalia which is responsible for passenger and commercial transport. Then, we have sectoral companies like Italferr, that builds the railway network (even in other countries). Furthermore, there are two companies that deal with priority part of the real estate: Grandistazioni and Centostazioni.


With regard to Roma Tiburtina, the competences are obviously mixed, as in every italian station. There is “Centostazioni” part of RFI, or Italian FS Group, which owns the Station area and the railway line. Centostazioni, manages the largest Italian stations, which have been transformed by incorporating uses that were previously prohibited. These have been transformed into shopping centers and are the effect of the liberalization process.

A second responsible entity is of the Municipality of Rome related to the external area. Moreover,  the third competence is the Soprintendenza, an institution that manages heritage and cultural property and it often investigates how every project in Italy respect cultural heritage. The Soprintendenza has no prevalent jurisdiction in these areas. So, any land movement intervention on public spaces must be accompanied by a preliminary archaeological study from the Soprintendenza, for interventions in extreme periphery as well. This study has an important influence on the decisions of intervention within the municipal area.



First of all, The new Roma Tiburtina station was built to be the Rome High Speed train station. The project is different compared to what is actually the Station today. Trenitalia is progressively reducing the number of high-speed trains that stop at this station in favor of the central Termini station.

This hub of national transport in the city of Rome is certainly a hub of the city itself. The station is in a privileged access position and it is located at the center of the railway axis that connects the main Roman stations (Termini-Tiburtina-Ostiense). Furthermore, It is the main station of a metro-line since 1990 linking the city center with the periphery.

The station is also one of the main terminus-stop of the city of Rome for urban, regional, national and international buses. Due to the complexity of the bus station, many projects have been proposed in order to decongest the transport flows and liberate the nearby square from the traffic.   But there has never been a full concertation between private-public managers and the City.

In Rome, as in other italian cities, there is no integration between urban planning, transport planning and national or large area planning. So the problem of Rome is that urban planning has never been crossed with the mobility planning, with the public infrastructures planning but in general with the politics. Rome has followed, when it has been able, extraordinary interventions from the post-war period until today. The interventions that have been done do not follow a coherent vision for the development of the city and they are fragmentary constructed in the urban fabric of Rome.

Inside and Outside of the Station

Roma Tiburtina is a transit station and for this reason there are two sides of the station. The first towards the Nomentano the transformation has been complete but chaotic, whereas on the other side towards Pietralata is complete but less functional.

The Nomentano exterior has a large square that is not very visible. At the exit of the station building there is the barrier of the Tiburtina Circonvallazione road, a series of bridges that do not allow full visibility of the station. With regard to these bridges, the Municipality would like to demolish them but part of civil society vision them as park. Outside there is the typical chaos of the exit from a big Italian station with buses, taxis, parking, bars, tourists, etc. There is a building occupied by migrants in which the Municipality has prepared some basic services in favor of that use. The external commercial activities are lateral to the square, there is no function in the middle of the square, except from a few small bars and the transport function.

For the Pietralata side, the difficult implementation of the ancillary projects at the construction of the station make this exterior an example of completed but not functional intervention. Therefore, we understand that the infrastructural plan is finished, but in an area empty of functions. Without external activities, there are no pedestrian flows, so this side of the station appears oversized. Among the new buildings that are slowly enriching the neighborhood, there is the important “BNL” headquarters that will house about 4,000 employees, but obviously it can not be a single building to liven up an entire neighborhood. The top of all station is a big shopping centre, but the only its central part works, but as regards the connection between the two external sides, there is still no effective connection. At the beginning, the shopping centre there were several commercial activities along the bridge, within the last three years the commercial activities started to close in the outermost part. It is unusual to enter a new station and find abandoned shops, so It is not a mistake of the project but an implementation problem. It is just a new and unfinished station for a number of reasons: the bad management plan and the existing political problem did not archive to bridge the two different neighbourhood and in parallel the commercial business in the station are in decline.

A political problem, nothing else!

If the station becomes an “outside” of the city, residual activities will spontaneously settle around the station. If it is a “centre” there are qualified activities.

It seems obvious that the Tiburtina Station was designed as a “centre” and today it is still an “outside” because there is chaos and the contradiction of decisions. After a completed or ongoing intervention there is constantly a new idea, process, project that makes everything start again. The participatory process must be started and we could have had this process in the past for the transformation of the area. Obviously we can distinguish, under a formal profile, anyone who is not the owner of the station can intervene within it. The station is managed by the group of companies mentioned above. What it can be changed it is the external and the best way it is to organize participatory processes for the organization of the public spaces around the stations.

In conclusion, any policy that targets the city must be built in a simultaneous top-down and bottom-up mode. The policies that only come down from above never work; politics that rise from below never run because they fail.

In this case it is possible to use the Bridge Metaphor: the bridge works because it has two pillars and a connection. If any of these elements is missing, the bridge collapses. Urban planning policies must work as bridges.

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