The Ascensore Castello d’Albertis-Montegalletto is the only elevator in Europe that starts as a train and ends as an elevator. And it’s all done in the same journey, without passengers having to leave their cabin.
Due to its hilly nature, the Italian city of Genoa has developed an interesting range of public transportation systems. There are three funicular railways, a steeply climbing rack railway, and 10 public elevators that connect the lower parts of the city with those above. None of these systems, however, are quite as peculiar as the Ascensore Castello d’Albertis-Montegalletto.
The origins of the Ascensore Castello d’Albertis-Montegalletto date back to 1929, when an elevator was built to connect Genoa’s main train station with the former district of Montegalletto. Taking the elevator wasn’t the most convenient option, as passengers had to first walk more than 300 yards through a tunnel connecting the train station with the elevator. But it was cheaper than taking the tram or bus, so it remained a popular option among residents of Montegalletto.
By the end of the 1960s, however, other transportation options in Genoa became cheaper, leading to a gradual decline in elevator passengers. In 1995, AMT Genova, the local public transport authority, decided to close the aging elevator, but soon began looking for a viable system to replace it.
The main problem was connecting the lengthy tunnel to the elevator in an efficient manner. The solution was both innovative and somewhat quirky. Rather than have two separate systems, which would require passengers to board a horizontal cabin in the tunnel before disembarking and entering the vertical elevator, the chosen design involved only one cabin traveling both horizontally and vertically.
Work began on the new system in 2002, and the new Ascensore Castello d’Albertis-Montegalletto was opened to the public in December 2004. The system features two cabins or gondolas that run simultaneously but in opposite directions. When one is at the top of the elevator system, the other is at the beginning of the tunnel.
The cabin travels via a funicular railway through the horizontal tunnel, which is about 257 yards long. As it reaches the foot of the elevator, it moves onto a system of tires for a brief transition period, during which it passes by the other cabin, which has just exited the elevator.
It’s then attached to the elevator while the other cabin is attached to the funicular system. After an ascent of about 226 feet, passengers arrive on Corso Dogali by Albertis Castle. The total travel time is about three minutes, as can be seen in this video.
Know Before You Go
The lower entrance to the Ascensore Castello d'Albertis-Montegalletto is located just off Via Balbi, a short walk east of the Genova Piazza Principe railway station. The upper entrance is on the Corso Dogali, not far from Albertis Castle (where you’ll have a great view across the city). Each cabin holds 23 people.