New train museum opens in Florence with one of Europe's largest model railways

A new HZERO museum dedicated to the railway world opens to the public in the former Ariston cinema in Florence. The centerpiece of the museum is a large model railway, among the largest in Europe, which its creator has built over 40 years of dedication.

On Sunday, May 29, 2022, the new HZERO museum, the miniature railway enterprise, opens to the public in Florence, Italy, inside theformer Ariston cinema near the Florence Santa Maria Novella station. A museum project that began as a project in the making and that, beginning with its name, refers to a technical term used in modeling to define the order of scale but at the same time also recalls a hyper-technological dimension.

The centerpiece of the museum is a work of craftsmanship of the highest order: the model railway designed by Giuseppe Paternò Castello di San Giuliano and created over forty years of passionate work. Indeed, it is a project that combines creativity and dedication.

The tour starts right from the model railway, with lights, sounds and projections specially designed to emphasize its scenic rendering. The projection system conceived by the Milanese studio Karmachina, in collaboration with curator Alberto Salvadori, takes the details of the model and reinterprets them in an illustrative key, through the techniques of illustration and motion graphics. A lighting system conceived by light designer Angelo Linzalata is designed to give the impression of the passage of time through the succession of different atmospheric events, from thunderstorm to snowfall, from dawn to dusk. Theimmersive setting is complemented and enriched by the soundscape created by the museum research, production and education center Tempo Reale. The more than fifty speakers in the public address system are designed to create precise sequences of ambient soundscapes, in total harmony with the movements of the trains in the model railway and the video projections of Karmachina.

Narrating the history of the model is Diego di San Giuliano, son of Giuseppe Paternò Castello di San Giuliano; the latter was a car enthusiast. His passion then shifted to electric trains, which he began collecting almost obsessively. The beginning of this adventure was in 1972, when, having gone to a toy store with the intention of buying a model car, he was attracted to a Märklin train. After this purchase, he began in his son Diego’s room the construction of a model railroad, immediately following a sophisticated and complex idea, but not yet aware of how committed and passionate this endeavor would make him for over forty years.

The model railway is among the largest in Europe: it is 280 square meters and reproduces miniature landscapes traversed by about seventy trains from the Marklin, Piko, and Roco manufacturers. With 359 possible routes, almost a kilometer of track, over a thousand street lamps, 121 traffic lights. And over fifty loudspeakers for public address. There is no shortage of residents or passersby in these landscapes.

Also on view from May 29, 2022 to January 8, 2023, on the second floor of the new museum is the exhibition The Places of Travel. The Train Whistle, in collaboration with Fondazione FS Italiane. The exhibition aims to delve into the universe of the train through period accounts and documentation. The itinerary, focused on the 1950s and 1960s, unfolds through a selection of period newsreels from the Historical Archives of the Fondazione FS Italiane, which, between memories linked to daily life and direct testimonies, aims to restore the great importance of the train in our imagination. Glorious and dramatic events, everyday stories and metaphorical tracks evoke a cross-section of our history, testifying to how the train can be both a bearer of memories of the past and of hope for the future.

For more info and reservations, you can visit

Hours: Daily, except Tuesdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Last admission at 6 p.m.

Image: HZERO Museum

New train museum opens in Florence with one of Europe's largest model railways
New train museum opens in Florence with one of Europe's largest model railways

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