The station was probably named after the piazza in front of it
Unusually for a large European city, Rome has a single general station serving all lines, called Roma Termini. It is a head station with 24 main tracks that is very well located in the centre of the city. Most people probably assume the name refers to the terminals of the lines terminating there, which would be quite reasonable. However, the origin of the name is more obscure.
The first station on this site, built 1868-1874, served the three lines then existing, to Civitavecchia, Frascati and Ceprano. It was built on the grounds of Villa Montalto, which was constructed for Cardinal Felice Peretti di Montalto, later Pope Sixtus V, by his architect, Domenico Fontana, in 1576-1580. One of the principal buildings on the site was the Palazzo di Termini, also called Palazzo Sistino, which was demolished in 1883. Another building, the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, was built on the grounds in 1883 and is now a museum. The large Baths of Diocletian are nearby, from which large quantities of stone were pilfered for construction on the area, notably for Sixtus V's favourite church, Santa Maria degli Angeli. This area was known as Piazza di Termini until 1877, when Piazza dei Cinquecento became its new name.
The name 'termini' does not refer to baths either in Latin or Italian, but rather to 'boundaries'. Here, it may be derived from the Severan wall which passes diagonally through the site. A piece of this wall is preserved in front of the station. Nearness to the baths is better expressed by 'alle Terme' as in the other building. The station derived its name from the Piazza di Termini, which in turn may have been named after the boundary formed by the city walls.
The original station was named Stazione Centrale, in fact. The Termini name may have been officially recognized when the new station was built in 1937-1950. Most guidebooks and web sites say it refers to the nearby baths, but I have pointed out here why this is probably not accurate.
Sixtus V may be responsible for the preservation of the curious nymphaeum, a 4th-century rotonda also called Tempio di Minerva Medica, close beside the tracks on the south a short distance out of the station, whose ruins are easily noticed by travellers. He built the Acqua Felice, the first modern aqueduct, in 1586 through this area, using the classical Acqua Marcia that may have supplied this nymphaeum, which was probably on the grounds of Villa Montalto. Its dome did not collapse until 1828. In classical times, this was part of the Horti Liciniani.
Grandistazionihas information on Roma Termini. Also see Wikipedia.
Piazza Termini recounts the history of the area.
Composed by J. B. Calvert
Created 05 May 2009