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santa maria novella station helene vallet

text: Marta Innocenti Ciulli
photo: Helene Vallet

May 4, 2020

Florence and the Coronavirus emergency. Ready to go

The Santa Maria Novella station told by Helene Vallet's lens. An intense emptiness that we will soon begin to fill again

Communication routes are the arteries along which the lifeblood of a country flows. In recent weeks they have been as if suspended in time, but it will also be from here that the restart inaugurated today with Phase 2 will begin.

Here is our central station, Santa Maria Novella, a glimpse of what it was like during the Coronavirus emergency, before the departure and arrival signs turn back to the way they used to.

Santa Maria Novella Station, inaugurated in 1848, was redesigned by Giovanni Michelucci in the 1930s

These are the photos of Helene Vallet, a young French photographer from Paris, who has lived in Florence for twenty years. Helene collaborates with professional photographers, her videos shot during our fashion shootings were presented at the events of Firenze Made in Tuscany. "It was a very special experience, also very painful. I found myself at the station in Florence, a place I know very well, it's near my house, I go through it often, hundreds and hundreds of times I took the train, yet I couldn't recognize the place. It seemed like a strange dream, an evanescent place that if you touch it vanishes like dust in the wind. That's why I chose a slightly "faded" photographic retouching, with little colour saturation and above all little contrast.

Innovative was also the use of materials

After a few days I felt the need to go back there to make polaroids. And through these snapshots and printed images at the time, I wanted to make sure it was all true..."
It's all true, never in recent years, we have seen our train station, the center of pulsating Florence, so lonely and abandoned. Perhaps as lonely as the day before the inauguration, when the architect Giovanni Michelucci, will have looked at it empty and deserted, satisfied with his revolutionary work that had met so much violent controversy, then comparing it with the station in Milan just before, a pharaonic building between liberty and empire. But wonderful.

the large window that from the outside resembles a waterfall

Among the architectural features, the new choice of materials stands out: the use of strong stone, advertising photographs instead of marble and neoclassical statues, intelligent signage, the lighting of the canopies anticipating the neon, the large glass window - seen from the outside looking like a waterfall - which continues as a roof - skylight, the floor and pillars in serpentine of the Alps, the bronze finishes.

An architectural work that UNESCO has included as "of pre-eminent artistic importance worldwide" and this does not prevent more than five hundred trains running there every day. Soon, very soon the station will resume its usual bustle. However, we will not forget this anomalous and painful interval, just to acknowledge that once again we are on a new starting line.

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