We describe the machine layout and major performance parameters for the FERMI FEL project funded for construction at Sincrotrone Trieste, Italy, within the next five years. The project will be the first user facility based on seeded harmonic cascade FELs, providing controlled, high peak-power pulses. With a high-brightness rf photocathode gun, and using the existing 1.2 GeV S-band linac, the facility will provide tunable output over a range from ~;100 nm to ~;10 nm, with pulse duration from 40 fs to ~; 1 ps, peak power ~;GW, and with fully variable output polarization. Initially, two FEL cascades are planned; a single-stage harmonic generation to operate > 40 nm, and a two stage cascade operating from ~;40 nm to ~;10 nm or shorter wavelength. The output is spatially and temporally coherent, with peak power in the GW range. Lasers provide modulation to the electron beam, as well as driving the photocathode and other systems, and the facility will integrate laser systems with the accelerator infrastructure, including a state-of-the-art optical timing system providing synchronization of rf signals, lasers, and x-ray pulses. Major systems and overall facility layout are described, and key performance parameters summarized.