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2023 was a record year for the Italian National Railway Museum in Pietrarsa, Naples, with 265,000 people visiting the exhibition run by Fondazione FS Italiane.

The record turnout coincided with the tenth anniversary of Fondazione FS, the body founded on 6 March 2013 to restore, conserve and enhance the legacy of the Italian railways, Ferrovie Italiane.

The National Railway Museum in Pietrarsa, whose collection of historic locomotives and carriages is unique in Europe, is located on the first railway track line built in Italy: an outstanding location that opened its doors to the media for a guided tour with the General Manager of Fondazione FS and CEO of Treni Turistici Italiani, Luigi Cantamessa, who knows every secret concealed there.

Mr Cantamessa explained the key role of the Pietrarsa museum not only in highlighting the splendours of the past, but also as the nerve centre of experiences focused on the present and future of Ferrovie Italiane: a perfect link between the world of Fondazione FS and the world of Treni Turistici Italiani.

He also talked about the open “belvedere” carriages that will travel on special lines through nature: the first journey is planned during 2024, through the Franciacorta vineyards.

The National Railway Museum in Pietrarsa is Ferrovie Italiane’s memory lane. Located in the place where it all began, it really is unique among railway museums in Europe. A marvellous building with its architecture from the Bourbon Restoration period, located exactly at the centre of Italy’s first railway line, the Naples-Portici. In front of it is the sea, and behind it Mount Vesuvius. Ingredients that together make Pietrarsa the most attractive railway museum in Europe.

But this isn’t a static vision. A dusty museum where you look at trains that no longer operate. No, Pietrarsa today boasts perfectly restored and well maintained rail structures, with high-level services and trains with shining brass fittings which visitors can board to go back in time. So it is the natural link with Treni Turistici Italiani. You have to come to Pietrarsa by train: it has a small internal station built from Vesuvius lava stone. Think of one of our historic “treni azzurri” trains leaving from Rome, from Reggio Calabria, and you have a complete railway experience culminating in Pietrarsa. The past, present and future of Ferrovie dello Stato are unmistakeably bound together by this wonderful, unique creation. An indissoluble binomial of Fondazione FS, with its museums and historic trains, and FS Treni Turistici Italiani, with its new tourist routes. I think this new sector will have a huge market in the future and will make a significant contribution to raising our national GDP.

 Through Fondazione FS’ ten years of activity, we have built up important restoration knowhow to return these old trains to efficient service. The ultimate and most exciting goal of this adventure will be the construction of completely open carriages. “Belvederes”, in railway jargon. These are carriages without roofs, fitted with wooden seats and side panels up to elbow-height, which will travel on lines immersed in nature.

The first service will begin operating in 2024 on a small railway in Lombardy, the Palazzolo Paratico Sarnico. This is a 12 km branch of the Bergamo-Brescia line, and travels through the first Franciacorta vineyards. It runs close to the river Oglio, the main tributary of Lake Iseo. A unique adventure in 12 kilometres, a 30 km round trip in an open carriage breathing in the scents of nature. It will be the first open-air railway, but we are sure it won’t be the last.