The Saltino: Between Grand Tour, Railroad and Historical Memories.

Traveling along the slow rail line between Arezzo and Florence, just before the Tuscan capital is the Sant’Ellero station. Few people know that from here, in the years between the 1800s and 1900s, a cogwheel train departed from the bottom of the valley to a tourist resort that was very popular at that time: Vallombrosa and the Saltino.

This ambitious project was desired and realized by Count Giuseppe Telfener, who, in addition to being an engineer, formed the “Anonymous Society for the Sant’Ellero – Saltino Railroad.” The project, submitted in November 1891, was quickly approved, and work began on May 23, 1892, finishing on September 20 of the same year. Thanks to a government grant and subsidies from the Province of Florence and the Municipality of Reggello, the cogwheel train became a reality.

The train departed from St. Ellero station and arrived at Saltino, with intermediate stops at Donnini and Filiberti for water and coal supplies. After the inauguration, Vallombrosa and the Saltino experienced a boom in tourism. A large hotel was built to accommodate the growing number of vacationers, including such illustrious figures as John Milton, who dedicated verses from his “Paradise Lost” to Vallombrosa, and Gabriele D’Annunzio, who in 1898 described the landscape from a panoramic balcony at Saltino in poetic words.

The Grand Hotel Vallombrosa became a benchmark for luxury hospitality. However, the railroad’s activity peaked in 1910 and began to decline as early as 1913 with the relocation of the Forestry Institute to Florence and the arrival of World War I. The flow of tourists dropped dramatically and the price of coal increased. Attempts were made to use lignite mined in Santa Barbara, but with poor results. Train rides to Vallombrosa did not resume until 1919, but the gradual spread of the automobile and the establishment of the first coach services marked the final crisis of the railway. In 1920 the line remained inactive, and the last run was made on April 18, 1924.

Today, the route of the old railway has been partly transformed into a hiking trail that allows visitors to relive the excitement of yesteryear, enjoying spectacular views of the Tuscan hills and immersing themselves in the history and nature of the place. To visit the Saltino is to immerse oneself in an atmosphere that has fascinated travelers for centuries, amid the beauty of Tuscany and the memories of the Grand Tour.