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Vallombrosa by Funicular Railway 02/03/2011

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Vallombrosa is now very easy of access: an hour about from Florence to Sant’ Ellero; about another hour in the Funicular from Sant’ Ellero to the Saltino station, and there we are, three thousand feet and more above the level of the Tuscan sea, gazing over all the beauties of the Val d’Arno Superiore, and only twenty minutes’ walk from the world-famed Abbey.

The Funicular railway was made in 1892 by the exertions of Count Joseph Telfener, since deceased. The system is cogwheel and infallible; no accident has ever occurred, for no accident could occur.

We are pushed up the mountain side in open carriages, and freely enjoy a glorious view, passing first through vineyards and olive orchards, then constantly through mountain shrubberies and woods of juniper, arbutus, ilex, beech, and chestnut (how beneficently the air changes with the first appearance of the chestnut), until we land on a level with the pine-forests.

Outside the station is the Grand Hotel Saltino, finely placed to catch all the breezes from the four quarters of the globe; opposite is a Hotel Milton, as one might have expected after all those countless references to a certain quotation which nothing shall induce me to quote.

Here, too, are the few shops and most of the villini and chalets. On the road to the abbey we pass on the right the Grand Hotel Croce di Savoia; on the left the noble Hotel Castello di Acquabella. I may call it noble (though they would fain have it ‘grand’ also) for it is really a fine chateau in mediaeval style, built for himself twenty-five years ago by Count Pio Resse, with no thought of the accommodation of pleasure-seekers.

Soon we are in the first of the pine-forests with its ‘insuperable height of loftiest shade’, and the communal road takes on that billiard-table-like smoothness peculiar to roads that are sheltered by pines. We pause for a moment to drink in the strong, exhilarating, aromatic odour of the forest, and my companion would fain have broken away for a sylvan ramble. But I am in haste to be at the abbey, and drag him reluctant along with me. In a brief space the towers and campanile of that vast historic building come in sight, and in a few minutes more we have passed through the courtyard and found cool shelter in the dark Abbey Church.