So there I was at my destination, but I soon realized that I was being faced with a situation that was completely different than the one I had imagined. In Japan, towns develop outward from their train stations, and the area around them is bustling with activity. In Italy, however, the main train station is built apart from the town—sometimes in a location so desolate that you end up wondering whether anyone lives in the town at all. Having prepared absolutely nothing beforehand, I was sure I had made a complete blunder. But I decided to follow the other people who had gotten off at the station. When I successfully reached the center of town, I breathed a sigh of relief, bidding farewell to the backs of the people who had unwittingly guided me there. I then finally started to stroll around the streets at my own leisurely pace.
I continued to ride the trains frequently for work even after I had settled in Milan. I’d arrive at the station in time for my train’s departure, but typically still end up making it just in time and speed walking until I was out of breath to make it. Occasionally I’d even have to rush for the closing doors, covered in sweat. At some point, it no longer bothered me to get to the station early. In fact, I welcomed it. Why? Well, they opened up some boutiques there.
The building that houses the Milan central railway station is itself worth seeing. Built during Italy’s fascist period, it was meant to be an imposing structure. That said, you wonder who would be able to look up at this grand station and continue strolling in and out of it, day after day. Though it seems unlikely, the inside of the building is now designed to allow you to make the most of your wait, with clothing shops, freshly updated cafés, and more. It’s the kind of station where you look forward to getting there early.
Speaking of boutiques, when I first visited the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, I noticed something that was completely unlike any hospital I’d seen before—boutiques lined the underground walkway linking the hospital to the train station. It felt so much like walking through a row of boutique shops in a grand hotel. This may be because there is a hotel adjacent to the hospital…
I wonder if the Milan central railway station will end up like Tokyo Station before long—linked to glittering fashion malls and luxury hotels the way Tokyo Station is connected to the Daimaru department store and the Marunouchi Hotel. It’s already connected to San Raffaele, Milan’s most gorgeously upscale hospital… In short, when you go to the train station, there’s something there that’s the best in some way. It’s going to be a long time coming, but I have the feeling that years from now, I’ll get the chance to talk about this long path of evolution.