The saltarello was a lively, merry dance first mentioned in Naples during the 14th century. The music survives, but no early instructions for the actual dance are known. It was played in a fast triple meter and is named for its peculiar leaping step, after the Italian verb saltare ("to jump").
The saltarello enjoyed great popularity in the courts of medieval Europe. During the 15th century, the word saltarello became the name of a particular dance step (a double with a hop on the final or initial upbeat), and the name of a meter of music (a fast triple), both of which appear in many choreographed dances. Entire dances consisting of only the saltarello step and meter are described as being improvised dances in 15th century Italian dance manuals. (The first dance treatise that dealt with the saltarello was the 1465 work of Antonio Cornazzano.) This step and meter do not appear in 16th century dance manuals, except in passing. During this era, the saltarello was danced by bands of courtesans dressed as men at masquerades. The saltarello gave birth to the quadernaria in Germany, which was then fused into the saltarello tedesco (German saltarello) in Italy.