Montecatini Terme has been a central part of Italian tourism for years: a prestigious resort in the Nievole Valley, the town of Montecatini Terme radiates vitality not only thanks to the spas and their healing waters, but also thanks to the strolls along the boulevards, the medieval charm of Montecatini Alto and the absolute proximity to some of the top destinations in Tuscany.
When considering how to see Montecatini Terme, you cannot forget to ponder the proximity with magical city of Florence (50 km), the nearby leaning Tower of Pisa (50 Km), even closer are the beautiful town of Lucca (33 Km) and the small and exquisite historic town of Pistoia (17 Km).
To narrate, to visit, to live Montecatini you must follow two routes, both of which stem from the centre of Montecatini Terme: one pointing north, crossing the central Piazza del Popolo, flowing into Viale Verdi climbing and glancing at the spas and the majestic Parco. The other runs east, following Corso Matteotti until the latter becomes SR 435 and is called Pieve when near Nievole, then turns left towards the village: Montecatini Alto in Tuscany.
Then, heading towards Corso Matteotti... at the beginning Montecatini Alto became known for a dispute between prelates that took place in 716 A.D.: the two religious men fought so ferociously that King Liutprand and the Bishop of Florence in person had to intervene. Montecatini Alto, from the hill at almost 300 meters above sea level, looked down with some apprehension at the semi-marshy flat land, where the Montecatini thermae would later be built, hence - we are in 1074 - a genuine castle, Montecatini Alto, was built, surrounded by a couple of kilometres of walls, two fortresses and 25 towers.
Those of Montecatini are also arguers... they found the Guelph party and destroyed the nearby Ghibelline Marliana (1164), and became the central point of epic battles and sieges that, in the fourteenth century, draw great leaders like Uguccione Faggiola and Castruccio Castracane inside their walls. The contest goes on for a while but then Cosimo de' Medici, in 1544, takes control of the situation – he took over Montecatini using weapons and razed the town to the ground, although the correct term would be that Cosimo ordered to 'disassemble' the town. Cosimo, in fact, orders the walls and towers to be demolished- you can only see one tower clearly - but he also leaves a few hundred of his workers in the town who literally dismantle houses and churches bringing various fixtures and furnishings to Florence. Hence the story of power, glory and battles of Montecatini Alto comes to an end, it is time to change route... for us it is time to 'take Viale Verdi' because the time for another glory is here, that of Montecatini Therme and tourism.
In order to talk about Montecatini Terme Tuscany, one of the most important thermal spas in Europe, for once we do not start from the inclination of the Romans to say ‘water is good for you' but from the studies of a local doctor, namely Ugolino Simoni who, in 1417, wrote and promoted a book called 'De Balneorum Italiae ac proprietatibus Virtutibus' which lists the medical capabilities of the waters of Montecatini Terme giving impetus to their development. That is how in 1477 we can already speak of spa Montecatini as a structure designated for thermal tourism, even if known at the time under the name of 'Bagni di Montecatini', Montecatini hot springs.
The big step in quality that will make Montecatini, Italy rise to be one of the leading continental spas, is entirely due to the initiative and the vision of a Grand Duke of Tuscany, Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine who arrived from Vienna to direct his Tuscan estates, with the task to solve the havoc left by the last members of the Medici family.
After seeing Montecatini, Leopold falls in love with the town and starts to launch a vast plan for the Montecatini thermal waters that will lead to the construction in 1773 of the so-called Bagno Regio, the Terme Leopoldine in 1775 and the Tettuccio in 1779. At that time the road development of Montecatini Florence starts to be implemented with the contribution of the great architect Nicolò Gasparo Paoletti Maria (1727-1813). In 1853 the train station of Montecatini is inaugurated and this brings immense success to the Montecatini thermal baths in Tuscany; thanks to the reputation of the waters and its spa organization, Montecatini Tuscany becomes one of the greatest centres of cultural syncretism in Europe, attracting the biggest artists and intellectuals of the time.
Montecatini Terme spa is the vital centre of the Belle Époque movement, between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century its streets are full of fascinating Art Nouveau buildings that are now house tourists, in a renovated but still historic frame just as they did at the time with Giacomo Puccini and Giuseppe Verdi, the kings of Italy and those of half of Europe, Trilussa, Leoncavallo and Pirandello and many other European intellectuals until reaching, in 1926, the record of the time in terms of tourism with 75,000 admissions that year.
In the second half of the twentieth century Montecatini Terme in Italy, reunited on an administrative level in 1940 with the other piece of its history, Montecatini Alto, remains a fascinating meeting point for actors and models, designers and artists, in a virtuous spiral of notoriety that brought Montecatini Terme to the present day.
Today Montecatini Terme is perhaps less fashionable but has become a highly specialized wellness centre, a large spa with outstanding amenities, a landmark among all other spa projects with over 1.6 million visitors a year and a network of connections and opportunities with all the beautiful world of tourism in Tuscany.
The waters that flow in Montecatini have a truly unique quality in the world, they are divided into weak, medium and strong depending on the salt mix they contain. They vary for each spring but are all associated because of their characteristic of salt-sulphate-alkaline waters with a valuable content for our body of calcium, bromine, iodine, chlorine, magnesium, lithium, potassium, sodium and sulphate. The sources from which the different waters derive, are those of Rinfresco, Tettuccio, Regina and Leopoldine.
At Montecatini Terme Italia you have an offer spanning the complete series of thermal treatments: the intake of drinking water has made this centre famous, then the inhalation centre, the balneotherapy and the mud therapy, even the thermal rehabilitation with physiotherapy and hydrokinetic and instrumental physiotherapy. In addition to these elements so typical of the medical centre of the terme in Montecatini, you can find the most advanced wellness techniques: thermal oasis, aqualux, , the most advanced massage techniques, acquathermal and all cosmetic treatments.
The various centres have different specializations: Montecatini Terme Redi excel for their inhalation and balneotherapy care, motoric rehabilitation and spa, Terme Tettuccio Montecatini for curing with water, Montecatini Terme Excelsior - as well as for hydroponic - also as a renowned centre for therapy, massages and fitness.
Montecatini and Valdinievole: it is logical that a combination of this type finds in the spa town a valuable pearl because there are many activities in Montecatini alongside the spas that give the measure of the value of the Tuscan city. One of these is the programme of the Teatro Verdi Montecatini spa which gathers important names from the world of theatre and Italian music. Many cultural events shine on Montecatini: in musical and operatic terms, the Montecatini Opera Festival, an event of the highest level, has been held here since the late nineties.
But if we go on talking about pairs, there would be another combination that makes the Tuscan atmosphere shine: Montecatini and Golf. Golf is Montecatini Terme and the exclusive club of the famous sport is about ten kilometres from the spa, to the southeast, in the Monsummano area and is one of the most fascinating centres in the industry, as well as having highly technical content.
Have you already enjoyed the Spa and its esteemed services, a walk in the park and now want to head to the 'Castle'? That is how Montecatini Alto was called in the past centuries and today, despite the Medici’s intervention, it remains a charming medieval village that revolves around its Piazza Giusti and encloses all the charm of the castle life as well as many charming and evocative corners in which to enjoy the wine and food specialties of Tuscany. How to get to Montecatini Alto? Montecatini Funicular? Indeed it is an unmissable experience: its departure spot is located on the far end of Montecatini Terme Park on Avenue Diaz and it remains one of the most beautiful attractions of Montecatini.
The Montecatini funicolare was inaugurated on June 4, 1898 and designed by an engineer from Genoa, namely Alessandro Ferretti, who found in his city the lenders to give, to the many personalities who lived the spa, the thrill of the climb on the characteristic red carraiges of the funicular up to the medieval village. The funicular of Montecatini Terme has at time seen its service suspended, most of the times for technological modernization and safety; it was restarted in 1982 with the charm of its vintage carriages absolutely intact and today, departing every half hour in summer, it is a not-to-be-missed experience for tourists.
Montecatini Terme is a multifaceted stage in Tuscany, which revolves around the exceptional resource of its water but also exhales culture and medieval history, gastronomy and exclusive sport. It will seem, when you arrive, as if you are taking a step into the past Liberty and optimism of the Belle Époque ... but when you begin to live it, you will find yourself one step away from the most unhoped-for future. Montecatini Terme looks ahead.
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