180th Anniversary of the First Italian Railroad Inauguration – On this day in 1839, a steam locomotive called Vesuvio pulled an eight-carriage train from Portici to Naples, inaugurating the first Italian Railroad. Today’s Doodle celebrates the historic event that ushered a new era in transportation and put Italy on the fast track to unification.
Departing at noon, the train completed the four-and-a-half-mile journey to Naples in less than 10 minutes, carrying passengers including King Ferdinand II of Bourbon, King of the Two Sicilies—or Regno delle Due Sicilie as Naples and Sicily were then known—as well as the French engineer Armando Giuseppe Bayard de la Vingtrie, whom King Ferdinand hired to construct the railway.
More than 85,000 passengers rode the line during the following two months, proving that there was public demand. In years to come, new ferrovie (or “iron ways”) were laid down, connecting the capital city of Naples to Caserta in the north as far south as Salerno.
When Vesuvio made its maiden voyage, the Italian peninsula was still divided territory—but the establishment of railways helped to unite the Kingdom of Italy. By the time of unification in 1861, over 1400 miles of railway crisscrossed the country. The new government expanded the national railway network, and by 1875, some 5,600 miles (about 9,012 kilometers) of track connected most of Italy’s major cities. In years to come railways would provide a means of transporting perishable food in refrigerated cars, facilitating trade between regions.
Trains have played a vital role in Italian history and culture, inspiring art from folk songs to posters, showing the profound impact of train travel.
Tutti a bordo!
Early concepts by artist Alyssa Winans
You can find more about 180th Anniversary of the First Italian Railroad Inauguration on the official Google Doodle Page