Vintage wooden carriages pulled by steam engines amidst art, nature and cusine.
by Antonino Lo Castro, ph. Giulietta e Giuliano Sodi
A small part of the Tuscan railway network is featured by some lines exclusively used for tourism. Amongst nature and art these historic trains give travelers the chance to reach small areas on the occasion of special events or local festivals. Trains as a means of transport have always had a certain fascination upon curious travelers who choose them for slow tourism. Tuscany offers a vast choice of itineraries to do aboard vintage wooden carriages pulled by steam locomotives thanks to the Ferrovie Turistiche Italiane (Italian Tourist Railways) association. Every year these trains travel along the old railway tracks of Siena, Grosseto, Pistoia, Florence, Marradi taking travelers to ancient medieval hamlets vibrant with food and wine events celebrating the most various local specialities from truffles to olive oil, to chestnuts, to wine. Not to be missed is the itinerary of Mugello for the chestnut festival with a steam train which, leaving from Pistoia, crosses Florence and Pontassieve arriving at Marradi. The old steam locomotive crosses the enchanting, vast and evocative landscape of Mugello, from the valley with its millenary-old country parish churches and country houses up to the Apennines with the via ducts, tunnels and chestnut and beech-tree woods. In southern Tuscany another fascinating itinerary is that crossing the Sienese area. It goes from Val d’Orcia to Grosseto. The journey, or rather the experience, usually takes a day. The “Treno della Vendemmia” (Harvest Train) in October is truly exciting. Then there are: the “Treno del Fungo Porcino” (Porcino mushroom Train) arriving at Monte Amiata Scalo and completing the journey to the Hermitage of Vivo d’Orcia by bus; the “Treno del Tartufo Bianco” (White Truffle Train) in November leaving from Siena and Grosseta reaching San Giovanni d’Asso in the Sienese Clay Hills and the “Treno dell’Olio” (Oil Train) leaving from Florence or Siena reaching San Quirico d’Orcia. These initiatives are called “Trenonatura” because they cross areas which have managed to keep urbanization and industrialization at bay. To conclude this roundup of itineraries we move north once more on a route of great allure that of the steam locomotive linking La Spezia to Castelnuovo Garfagnana. Here too, delve into the past, a journey of times gone by on carriages with wooden seats, bright bronze fittings and damask curtains pulled by a 1920 steam engine which slowly puffs its way amidst plumes of smoke and steam clouds, which carries the trepid traveler through history.
The full and definitive programme for the current year of the historic train rides can be checked by going to the FS Foundation website: www.fondazionefs.it, or www.terresiena.it/it/trenonatura/calendario and also www.ferrovieturistiche.it.