The Saltner, a historical figure, was the guardian of the vineyards in the Oltradige and the Bassa Atesina areas
An almost mystical figure seems to move through South Tyroleans history of wine-growing - it’s the Saltner, which protected the vineyards for many centuries from theft. His special leather suit had a unique cut and was completed by chains of animal teeth, pendants of sacred coins, crosses, fox tails on the body and colourful feathers on the hat. Armed with a halberd, the guardian should frighten animal and man properly and keep them away from the grapes.
The profession of the Saltner was practised only by young, unmarried and honourable men. They were hired from the 25th of July (Feast of St. James the Great) or the 10th of August (St. Lawrence’s Day) on until the end of the harvest and guarded one or more vineyards at the same time, staying outdoors day and night. From the specially built Saltner Tower he had a perfect view on his territory. In those weeks, the vineyards were a closed area. Only some urgently needed paths could be passed - in return the Saltner collected a road toll. And if any of the wanderers wanted to nibble a grape, he was chased away with curses in disgrace.
The Saltner was rewarded accordingly well for his intensive work which included also to assist the winegrower in his various tasks. It is said that the salary corresponded approximately to the annual income of a farm foreman. Around 1950, the profession of the Saltner died out, but you can still discover the interesting history of this figure and how he looked like in one of the museums, e.g. in the South Tyrolean Wine Museum in Caldaro.