Celebrating the design of an icon: ETR 300

Written by Domenico Di Maio

Week 42

There was a time when we could praise luxury trains for keeping pace with technological innovation, able to satisfy any taste or need.
The ETR 300 was a revolution and helped re-launch Italy’s global image. It was the product of the economic boom, a fortunate time for every field, and was a demonstration of architectural know-how and customizable Italian design.
Perhaps, it is the reason why it is commonly referred to as Settebello: a fortune telling card from Neapolitan culture, which represents the zenith of wellbeing, and success in love and work. Another reason is that it pays homage to the railway that closes the longest route in Italy: Milan-Naples. In any case, it is clear that it has come to represent an object of importance for the Bel Paese.
Produced in the 50’s in only three models, the train had a delicate and incredibly futuristic appearance, with a front section that resembled a jet. It was a reflection of the Italian design style of the time: mixed form and function combined in an exemplary manner.

For the first time, the creation of a luxury train, similar to those that ran on America’s endless rails, entertaining guests and exploring rugged landscapes.
The interior – designed by Gio Ponti and Carlo De Carli – was a place of sporadic luxury events, such as fashion shows for major Italian fashion houses, or became a feature of diverse movie sets. Everyone came to know about the fine elegance of its cabins, and the Settebello was the eras most talked about mode of transportation.
Time passes and the early nineties saw the ETR give way to better performing transport; the law of life: birth – notoriety – decadence, perfectly timed.
Settebello was decommissioned in 1992, and two of the three models were demolished after a laborious safety procedure to dispose of its raw materials.
One was conserved, but the discussion, initially triggered by the pulling-apart of the original carriages and their replacement with pieces from other vehicles, was not revived.
What matters in the end is that after almost 65 years we can still talk about an Italian saga that involves fortune, luxury and passion. Probably one of the most beautiful stories of our country.