Monsummano, from castle to spa town
Monsummano Terme is one of the most famous spa towns in all of Tuscany. The city is located in the eastern part of the Valdinievole, a very varied area ranging from the mountains of Monte Albano to the wetland of the Padule di Fucecchio and the plain in the direction of Lucca. Nearby there are plenty of opportunities to engage in outdoor sports (trekking, mountain biking etc.) or naturalistic activities (in particular bird watching in the Padule di Fucecchio).
Today the city of Monsummano Terme is located in the plain but originally it wasn’t. The oldest nucleus of Monsummano is in fact the ancient Castle of Monsummano Alto which has been known since the 12th century, although it is supposed to date back to the Lombard era. The lower city, that is the current Monsummano Terme, developed only starting from the XVI century, in particular after an apparition of the Virgin on June 9th 1573. A few years after that event, the Santuario di Santa Maria della Fontenuova and some structures dedicated to welcome pilgrims were built.
Monsummano developed as a thermal center began in the 19th century, mainly due to the presence of two natural thermal caves: the Grotta Giusti and the Grotta Parlanti.
Things to do in Monsummano Terme
- Museo di arte contemporanea e del Novecento
- Museo di Casa Giusti
- Museo della Città e del Territorio
- Santuario di Santa Maria della Fontenuova
- Monsummano Alto
- Grotta Giusti
Museo di Arte Contemporanea e del Novecento
We start our guide on Monsummano talking about three very interesting museums. The first of these museums is the Museo di Arte Contemporanea e del Novecento which is located in Via di Gragnano within the nineteenth-century Villa Martini, one of the most beautiful historical residences in all of Monsummano.
The museum boasts a rich collection that over the years has been enriched thanks to donations from individuals, collectors and artists, consisting of works of various kinds that represent numerous artistic movements of the 20th and 21st centuries. Among others, we find exhibited works by Pietro Annigoni, Quinto Martini, Vicinicio and Berti and Ferdinando Chevrier.
Winter time: Monday, Thursday, Friday 15.30-18.30; Saturday and Sunday 9.30-12.30 and 15.30-18.30.
Daylight Saving Time: Monday, Thursday, Friday 16.00-19.00; Wednesday 9.30-12.30; Saturday and Sunday 4.00pm-7.00pm.
Closed January 1st, August 15th and December 25th.
Museo di Casa Giusti
From Villa Martini we move to Viale Vincenzo Martini to reach the birthplace of Giuseppe Giusti, a poet who lived in the first half of the nineteenth century, which since 1992 has been home to the Museo Nazionale di Casa Giusti. The Casa Giusti museum is on two levels and is also equipped with a modern conference room: on the first floor there are some works of art and a series of period furnishings; on the second floor there are many documents relating to the life and works of the poet.
Every day 8.00-14.00 and 15.00-18.00.
Closed on Tuesdays, December 25th and January 1st.
Museo della Città e del Territorio
As we said at the beginning, the development of Monsummano Terme is linked to the foundation of the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Fontenuova and of the structures dedicated to welcoming pilgrims. One of these structures, the Osteria dei Pellegrini, is now home to the Museo della Città e del Territorio which documents and reconstructs the history of Monsummano and Valdinievole from prehistory to the contemporary era.
Winter timetable: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9.00-13.00; Tuesday and Thursday 9.00-13.00 and 15.30-17.30.
Summer timetable: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9.00-13.00; Tuesday and Thursday 9.00-13.00 and 16.00-18.00.
Closed Saturday, Sunday and holidays.
Santuario di Santa Maria della Fontenuova
At the center of the square where is the Osteria dei Pellegrini, there are also a nice statue of Giuseppe Giusti and the Santuario di Santa Maria della Fontenuova. Built from 1602, the sanctuary is characterized by a beautiful arcade with large arches and lunettes frescoed with scenes of the Miracles of the Madonna della Fontenuova. Inside there are many artworks to admire, including paintings, decorations, a beautiful high altar with the image of the Virgin and an extraordinary wooden ceiling with canvases: this church is a veritable treasure trove of art! Finally in the sacristy there is an ivory crucifix attributed to Giambologna.
To complete the tour in the center of Monsummano Terme, I suggest you to visit the beautiful Yves Montand Theater, built towards the end of the 1800s.
Once the visit of Monsummano Terme is complete, the time has come to take a dip in the past going up the hill that leads to the Castle of Monsummano Alto. Once belonging to the Abbey of Sant’Antimo, during the 14th century the castle was involved in the battles between Lucca and Florence that in 1331 succeeded in conquering it definitively.
Of the powerful defensive structures of the past, there are large tracts of walls, two access gates (Porta di Nostra Donna and Porta del Mercato) and a tall tower with a pentagonal base. Even the small Church of San Nicolao was part of the castle of Monsummano Alto; documented since the thirteenth century, but probably earlier, the church of San Nicolao has a very simple appearance and is characterized by the presence of a robust bell tower that was once part of the castle’s defenses.
After a long day visiting all the main monuments of Monsummano, what could be better than a little relaxation at the spa? The most famous place to enjoy the renowned thermal waters of the area is the famous Grotta Giusti, an enormous cavity rich in spectacular stalactites and stalagmites that was discovered in a completely fortuitous way in 1849. The water of this underground cave varies between 31 and 36 degrees Celsius and is used for various treatments useful for treating arthropathy, rheumatism, inflammatory diseases of the respiratory tract and skin diseases.
What to see in the surroundings
In the municipal area of Monsummano Terme I definitely recommend a visit to the small hillside village of Montevottolini. Born as a castle in the Middle Ages, the village was embellished at the end of the sixteenth century by the construction of Villa Medicea di Montevettolini commissioned by Ferdinando I de’ Medici. Next to the villa, you should also visit the beautiful church of Santi Michele Arcangelo e Lorenzo martire and the oratory of the Madonna della Neve where there is a Madonna with Child and saints of the early fifteenth century.
Among the various towns in the area, in addition to the wonderful Pistoia, the thermal city of Montecatini Terme, the nearby Montecatini Alto and the remarkable city of Pescia are certainly worth a visit.
How to get to Monsummano Terme
By car: to get to Monsummano by car you need to take the A11 Firenze-Mare motorway to the Montecatini Terme exit and from there follow the directions to your destination.
By train and bus: if you want to reach Monsummano by public transport you must take a train to Pistoia or to Montecatini and then continue by bus.