Although it’s also a railway station, it’s not exactly Termini Station nor does it feature in any movies; in fact, Stazione di Campiglia Marittima is a modest spot in the Italian municipality of the same name, in the hamlet of Venturina Terme (Livorno, Tuscany), rather removed from mass tourism. However, anyone going there to catch a train will find the platform adorned with the statue of a dog. It’s a monument in memory of a canine that gained fame for traveling by rail for years from that station, always finding a way back. His name was Lampo, and this is his story.

Stazione di Campiglia Marittima was inaugurated in 1863 on the occasion of the opening of the Livorno-Follonica line, which three decades later extended to Piombino. Initially, it only had three tracks connected by wooden walkways and didn’t have individual platforms until much later, when they were added along with a fourth track. In 2017, it underwent a modernizing reform that raised the platforms, covered them with canopies, and added a fifth track.

All this doesn’t take away its rural atmosphere or the fact that it’s a regional facility that, aboard InterCity and Frecciabianca trains, allows travel to Grosseto, Pisa, Rome, Florence, Milan, Genoa, Turin, and Naples. And vice versa, as Campiglia Marittima is included in the list of I borghi più belli d’Italia (“The most beautiful villages in Italy”, a private association that promotes small Italian towns with historical and artistic interest) and offers some attractions to visitors: Museum of Sacred Art, Pretorian Palace, a fortified complex, an archaeological-mining park, several churches…

Of all these, probably the most original is the aforementioned canine statue. It’s located inside the station, in a flowerbed next to the main platform, and was funded by popular subscription at the behest of the American magazine This Week, which, after the success of an article it published on the subject – thirteen million readers -, commissioned it to Andrea Spadani, a Roman sculptor who was somewhat famous in the USA, especially among Hollywood artists (and, by extension, Italian cinema), since he held his first exhibition in that country in 1956.

By then, Lampo was enjoying his peak of popularity. He was a mongrel dog, a stray, with no owner, of whom no one knew where he was born or when, estimating his year of birth around 1950. He simply arrived at Campiglia Marittima aboard a freight train in August 1953; it is said that someone put him in a wagon in Livorno to save him from the dog catchers, although it could not be verified.

The point is, when they found him, he so touched Mina and Virna Barlettani, the respective wife and daughter of the stationmaster, Elvio, that they convinced him to adopt him. At first, it was supposed to be for just one night, since the regulations prohibited the presence of animals there; however, the adoptive family already had another dog, a German shepherd named Tigre, and they became fond of the new one.

They were the ones who gave him the name Lampo, which means “flash” in Italian, alluding to the speed with which he traveled from one place to another like any other traveler. And indeed, the dog accompanied the girl to school every morning, a journey they had to make by train – he hidden under the seats to avoid the conductor because of the ban on animals aboard – to Piombino and then return alone to Campiglia Marittima on another train. What’s more, he quickly learned the train schedules – or somehow intuited them – and used various lines to other destinations to return at the end of each day; if he made a mistake, he would get off and wait for the right one.

After a while, the mutt learned the routes, and then word began to spread. The railway management in Florence, on which Elvio Barlettani depended, vetoed the presence of the dog on the premises, forcing his owner to keep him at home or get rid of him. Given his independent spirit, they opted for the latter and loaded him onto a freight train bound for Naples, but after a few days, he managed to come back; emaciated and exhausted, but there he was again. The stationmaster then entrusted him to a neighboring farmer… and five months later Lampo reappeared at the station, as if rejecting country life.

It was clear that the dog preferred the railway environment, so there was no choice but to relent and appoint him the official mascot of Stazione di Campiglia Marittima; they put a collar on him with a tag authorizing him to travel and even made friends with the staff of the cafeteria car, who would toss him food. It was the launching pad to fame, with journalists from all over the world visiting the town to dedicate reports and articles to him, both written and televised; even the prestigious RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana) paid attention to him in the children’s documentary program Giramondo -Cinegiornale dei Bambini.

Lampo’s sudden stardom served to unexpectedly clarify some of his past: a vagabond saw him on television and claimed that he was the same dog he had had with him years earlier in the port of Livorno, after seeing him disembark from a ship from the USA that had docked in 1951. This meant that Lampo lived for a decade, as he died in the summer of 1961; not a natural death but hit by a train. They buried his body in a flower-filled flowerbed at the station, at the foot of an acacia tree; the same place where, as we said, the statue commemorating his story was located.

Several books – one of them signed by Barlettani himself – and a song also recount this story. Elvio, who reunited with him – wherever they may be – in 2006, wrote these words in his work, as an introduction:

This is the life of Lampo, a dark street dog who came from who knows where. During the years I spent in his company, I wanted to write this simple and real story. I would like to start by saying that in my story, there are no heroic feats performed by Lampo; neither did the dog save his mistress from the flames, nor rescue his master from the fury of the river, nor hope to crown his existence with a rhetorical death on his mistress’s grave. Lampo simply wanted to live differently from all his companions, traveling to learn not only a little about our world, but also about the life and feelings of men.


This article was first published on our Spanish Edition on February 27, 2024. Puedes leer la versión en español en La historia de Lampo, el perro que viajaba por Italia memorizando los horarios de tren

Sources

Daniel Hornemann, Lampo – der Eisenbahn(er)hund | Jean Prieur, Gli animali hanno un’anima | Elvio Barlettani, Il cane viaggiatore | Wikipedia


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