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A view of Montecatini Alto


Funicular to Montecatini Alto


River scene, Montecatini Terme


Looking toward Montecatini Terme

 

For an in-depth look at, and a virtual tour of, Montecatini Terme and Montecatini Alto read the material on the Comune's official website.

Click here

Welcome to Montecatini Terme and Montecatini Alto
from Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population:  20,024 (2001)
Official website:
Montecatini
Wikipedia: Montecatini
Map:
MapQuest

Montecatini Terme, with its world- famous thermal baths, large parks and gorgeous gardens has been a busy health spa for centuries.  High above, connected by a funicular railway that was built in 1897, is Montecatini Alto, a fortified medieval town commanding spectacular views of the Tuscan  countryside which is dotted with many villages and towns, and divided by well-tended farms, vineyards and olive orchards.

These "Montecantinis" sit in the broad Valdinievole on the A11 highway in  Pistoia Province between Lucca to the west and Prato and Florence to the east.  They should not be confused with Montecatini Val di Cecina, which is 100 kilometers south in Pisa  Province.

Until 1905, Montecatini Terme was merely an extension of Montecatini Alto and was known as Bagni di Montecatini.  In that year, they became two separate and distinct comunes.  The were re-united in 1940.

At one time the area around the city, fed by under ground springs that tap the underlying aquifer, was swampy and malarial.  The danger of living in the valley lands is, of course, one of the reasons why people moved on to the slopes of the hill and built Montecatini Alto.  The other reason is that it commands a strategic location overlooking several ancient highways including the Cassia, the Francesca and the Romea.

Historically the area was within Etruria, the lands of the Etruscan people, and there is some evidence that they used the waters and regarded them as curative.  The Romans would also have inherited this "knowledge", though there is no record of their using the place as a spa. There are some writings from about 1387 that refer to the medicinal value of the springs, but only in 1530 does evidence emerge that people traveled here to bathe in them.  The fear of malaria, caused by mosquitoes gestating in the stagnant swamps surrounding the spring, prevented any further growth.

The first public bath, the Regina, was constructed in 1733 when the village was still known as Bagni di Montecatini, and was part of  Montecatini Alto.  But the town did not start growing into its present form until around 1771-72, when the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Pietro Leopoldo, ordered more draining and canalling of the bottom lands.  He also ordered the building of a larger complex of baths, now known as the "Leopolidini baths" to make the thermal springs more accessible.  Other baths, including the most famous of all, Il Tettuccio ("the Canopy") were built in the late 19th century, usually in the Liberty style.

The baths and the town that grew up around them, were connected with a tree-lined boulevard to the Lucca-Pistoia road.  The city, with its Liberty style buildings, wooded avenues, and the large grassy park, called the Panteraie, actually evokes a sense of places beyond the alps, Austria say, or Germany or France.  Today, adding a touch of Americana, there is even a highly ranked golf course and a horse racing track to add to the drawing power of the resort.

The thermal waters which drive the local economy purport to offer relief for those with arthritis, rheumatism, digestive ailments and a host of other maladies.  But, standing at the ready there is also an army of "health care" practitioners, to whom one can submit for everything from bona fide medical work, to massage, physiotherapy, mud bathing, beauty treatments, and whatever else the spa industry has dreamt-up, or will dream-up in the future. 

Top-end shops and boutiques, fine dining establishments serving up impeccable Tuscan cuisine, restaurants, cafes, trattoria, and night clubs add to an overall sense of relaxation and fun.

Montecatini Alto, about 200 or so  meters above Montecatini Terme, is a well-preserved medieval precinct which may have been settled in pre-Etruscan times by Ligurian tribes.  The Etruscans probably had a settlement here, as did the Romans.

Montecatini Alto first appears on a map in 1016 AD, well into the Christian era.  It was subject to the usual conflicts between local aristocrats, invading armies, and Ghibellines and Guelphs, ultimately finding itself firmly within the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, where it remained until the Duchy was absorbed into the modern state of Italy in 1860.

Debarking from the funicular one is immediately in the old town, where one can enjoy a plethora of ancient buildings, including the remains of a castle, a few palazzos and several churches.  The main piazza is capacious, the winding and narrow streets evocative of an age long ago.  There are, as mentioned, spectacular views of the surrounding country, and a number of establishments where one can find nourishment and refreshment.  We recommend, for those with good legs, that you descend to Montecatini Terme by walking down the shaded roads that are cut into the hillside.  It's a lovely stroll that offers yet more glimpses of gorgeous Tuscany.

by Vian Andrews, December 28th, 2005

Region of Tuscany

 

Distances

Vinci - 12 km;
Pistoia - 15 km;
Lucca - 30 km;
Florence - 40 km;
Pisa -  50 km;
Siena - 100 km;
Arezzo - 124 km;
Genoa - 190 km;
Perugia - 200 km;
Rome - 322 km

Directory

Tourist Office
Viale Verdi 66/68 Montecatini Terme Tel/Fax: 057-277-2244

Restaurants

Da Verazzano - Piazza Matteotti 28 - good Tuscan food

Gallo Nero - Via Cesare Battista 9 - great pizza

La Cantina - Piazza Trento - pizza and light meals

Torre delle Civette - Via Veneto - light menu, good prices


Spa Tettuccio, Montecatini Terme

 
The waters of the baths at Montecatini Therme percolate up from a depth of from 60 to 80 meters.  They are mineralized as they move up through the rock strata.

 

There are now nine major "public" baths, including Tettuccio, Excelsior, Regina, Salute, Tamerici, Redi, Torretta, Leopoldine and Grocco.
 
Italian opera owes much to the spas of Montecatini Terme.  Verdi, Rossini, and Puccini all spent time composing here.
 
Liberty Architecture, much in evidence in Montecatini Terme, was an Italian adaptation of the Art Nouveau style which originated in France.  It is flamboyant and fun, often incorporating loose geometrical forms, elegant plants and flowers, and stylized animals. It was popular from about 1880 to 1920, then fell out of favor during fascist times, when architecture became somewhat plainer, and in some cases more brutal.