To travel through the Valle d’Itria by train is a unique way to enjoy the most authentic
country side while going as far from urban life as possible; it is dotted with trulli (traditional cone houses) and olive trees on an original layout that holds the towns of Alberobello, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Cisternino, Pascarosa and Ceglie Messapica. The travel is moderate, the beautiful land runs piece by piece alongside the train tracks over the non-electric line. The path unwinds over red clay ground in which hundred- year-old olive trees are planted, running parallel to dry stone walls, trulli, and large, metal barns that maintain their traditional style and beauty.
The railroad line construction that contains the Valle d’Itria dates back to the beginning of the last century and occurred quickly. The Putignano-Locorotondo line, an extension of the Bari-Putignano line, was finished in 1903, while it should have waited for the end of the first war, in order to see the completion of the Locorotondo-Martina-Francavilla, in 1924. In the following year came the official inauguration of the Cisternino railroad station.
The interesting letter from 1919, addressed to the Royal Chief of Police of the town of
Taranto, announced that the constitution of the public limited company “TARANTO-
MARTINA FRANCA-FASANO TRAMWAY” was for “the admission, the construction
and the practice of the Taranto-Martina Franca-Fasano tramway”. Before the turn
of the century it was warned that a connection with the city of Fasano was needed but it was never made.
The royal decree of October 22, 1931, given by the King’s governor, entrusted the
Società Anonima Italiana per le Ferrovie del Sud Est with the concession of 473 km of railway network that were built and managed in previous years by the
Società anonima italiana per le ferrovie Salentine and the
Società anonima delle Ferrovie Sussidiate. The latter had seen, from bankruptcy, the railroad line constructed from the society “sitting in London with the Bari representative” with the name The subventioned railways corporation limited, that then published the first railroad schedule of the Bari-Locorotondo line:
The first morning train left from Locorotondo at 6:27 a.m. and arrived at
the Apulian Capoluogo in two hours exactly, at 8:27 a.m. The first-class ticket cost 7 Lire and 10 cents, while the third-class ticket cost 3 Lire and 20 cents.
After almost a century, as of October 2018, work on inserting electricity throughout the entire route have begun, which is necessary to improve the travel time, reduce pollution, and adopt advanced security technology. Unfortunately, for a couple of years, the railroad lines will be partially closed and suspended of service while work is being done to upgrade them.
The captivating pictures are guarded by the Associazione Ionico-Salentina Amici Ferrovie near the Museo Feroviario della Puglia in Lecce, provided by the publications of the Direzione Centrale Brand Strategy and Communications of Ferrovie dello Stato.
Notable are the photographs, assembled in the volume FSE ‘Along the Railway of Change‘, made by Nancy Motta from 2008 to 2010 produced in occasion of the previous renewal works. The author recounts the life in progress emphasizing the station workers, toll booths and the long Salento railroad to the Itria Valley. “I have constructed this story according to the 6 railroad lines in the provinces Lecce Taranto and Bari, from different perspectives; with the car waiting for the arrival and passage of the train, from the station and beside the trains with the passenger’s gaze, watching the train and watching from the train’s window. I would have liked to have reported all of this world’s stories of life and memories but it would have taken up much more time, so for that reason I have decided to collect all the noise and assemble it together as images from an imaginary trip.”
Fonts: Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane – Direzione Centrale Brand Strategy e Comunicazione Relazioni con i Media Gruppo – Corrispondente territoriale Puglia e Basilicata. Pictures: Associazione Ionico-Salentina Amici Ferrovie.
This article has been translated by Arianna Napieralski, enrolled in the second year Italian course at CLIC – Center for Languages and Intercultural Communication – Rice University, Houston, Texas