La Dolce Vita di Lampo
Lampo slept in the station at Campiglia Marittima, a busy railway junction. In the morning he'd jump on the train to Piombino and walk Mirna Barlettani to school. Then he'd take the train back to Campiglia.
When the Turin or Rome Express stopped in Campiglia, Lampo would gaze meaningfully at the kitchen window of the dining car, barking if necessary. The cook would toss bones and meat out.
In the afternoon, Lampo took the train to Piombino and walked Mirna home from school. Then he returned to Campiglia.
From Campiglia, Lampo might catch a train anywhere. He'd hop onto any passenger train (never a freight) and ride calmly until he heard the conductor coming, when he'd hide under a seat. Lampo visited every station within 200 miles of Campiglia, becoming a well-known personality.
He was back in Campiglia by 9:00 pm, to catch the train to Piombino with assistant stationmaster Elvio Barlettani, Mirna's father. He'd spend the evening with the family. He was grossly favored over their dog Tiger – Tiger got bread and macaroni, but Lampo got meat, because that was the standard he was accustomed to. Then Lampo caught the last train back to Campiglia.
If it was very hot, Lampo might stoop to the bus. Having gone to a beach on the Tyrrhenian coast with the Barlettanis, Lampo knew the way. He'd go to the bus terminal and mingle with beach-goers getting on the bus so he could spend the day there.
Storia di Lampo
When Lampo jumped off a freight train in August 1953, and started living at Campiglia station, he already seemed used to solo train travel.
Talking with other railroaders, Barlettani concluded this was the same dog who had been mooching around the Livorno (aka “Leghorn”) station. When the Livorno stationmaster called the dogcatcher, railway workers shouted to warn the dog, and flung him into a freight car pulling out.
When the dog made Campiglia his base, the staff named him Lampo (Lightning). At first he traveled locally, but then he got ambitious, traveling for miles wherever trains went.
Lampo became famous among railroaders, who recognized him and exchanged stories of his travels. Then journalists, scum that they are, wrote about him and his fame spread.
Naturally there were authorities who thought poorly of this. Barlettani was told to make Lampo play it cool for a while. He took Lampo home to Piombino (a small spur station), and enlisted station staff there to keep him from getting on the train. Lampo busied himself defending the Barlettani home from deliveries, and from their friends and relations. He kept trying to catch a train. Every night, when the whistling and clatter of the outbound train could be heard, he'd fling himself at the door.
They let him ride the trains again, but one day he got caught in a door. The train was stopped so the doors would open and release him. This irregularity was witnessed by an inspector. Higher-ups ordered that the dog must go.
Barlettani conferred with station staff. They decided to put Lampo on a freight, not let him off till it was far to the south, and eject him in open country far from a station.
Of course he came back. When Lampo stepped off the Rome train five months later, he looked terrible. He had been tied with wire and string before getting free. He was gaunt and sick. A vet said he would die in hours. However, after a night's sleep in Campiglia station (his choice), Lampo felt much better.
He was far more famous now. “The station echoed with cries of joy.” The authorities relented; conductors pretended not to notice any dog; crowds came to see him. Lampo resumed traveling. Journalists, jackals that they are, filmed him for TV (alas, none of this seems to be on YouTube). He was known all over Italy, and in France. Word even got to San Francisco where Barlettani's aunt lived.
Lampo carried on his career for eight years. In 1961, age unknown, he was killed by a train in Campiglia station. Elvio Barlettani wrote a book, the 1963 Lampo: the Traveling Dog.
Perché viaggiate, Lampo?
When Lampo first appeared, no one was startled. In Italy in those days, when people had excess dogs or cats – which was often, for neutering and spaying was not commonly done – they frequently put the animals on freight trains to take their chances elsewhere.
None of the others took up regular train travel. However, Barlettani's macaroni-fed dog Tiger, an unambitious German Shepherd, was terrified of thunderstorms. One evening a storm hit just as Lampo was catching the train back to Campiglia, and panicky Tiger hopped on after him. Another day, in another storm, Tiger took the train by himself, having apparently learned to escape the horror this way. But the dimwit had not learned discretion, and passengers were terrified to see this huge Alsatian.
Barlettani writes that Lampo “wished to travel, not only to get to know a little about the great world, but also to learn about the life and reactions of men.”
Very philosophical, and in my opinion not wrong, but not the whole story. The book does not touch on canine sexuality. But Lampo was male, and apparently not neutered. Dogs usually weren't. One photograph in the informative book seems to show an intact male. And a blog post mentions that at Campiglia station today there is a statue of Lampo and some newspaper clippings, one of which says Lampo's daughter will play him in an Italian TV movie. Either it's a very old clipping or “daughter” means some more distant descendant -- but if he had descendants he wasn't neutered.
Male dogs often like to range large territories. Part of the incentive is the chance to meet as many interested females as possible. Using the Italian rails, Lampo had the biggest territory of any dog in Italy. Maybe in the world. Unlike dogs belonging to most travelers, Lampo set his own agenda. If he met a ravishing bitch in Siena, no one would rush him away to Pisa.
He surely had many daughters and sons. They don't seem to have inherited his methods, since I see no indication that Italy teems with independent rail-riding dogs.