Montecatini Terme: the born of an international hot spring resort town
Montecatini Terme is one of the most renowned spa resorts in Italy. Located in the heart of the Valdinievole in the Province of Pistoia, the city represents one of the major tourist centers in the area.
The history of the thermal baths of Montecatini begin in the second hal of the 18th century. In that period the ruler of the Granducato di Toscana was the Granduca Pietro Leopoldo; he is very important in this story because he conducted the necessary reclamation work in the area of Valdinievole. These works were fundamental to the development of the city that at the end of the 18th century was structured along the major avenues as we can see today.
Montecatini Terme acquires the role of prestigious health resort in the early 1900s. This is the period in which rise of large hotels and facilities related to recreation and relaxation. We are at the beginning of the twentieth century and the most popular style is what in Italy is called Liberty (art nouveau); and in fact in Montecatini we can still appreciate numerous buildings marked by the grace and elegance of the art nouveau style.
The waters of Montecatini
The thermal baths of Montecatini are fed by four springs that arise underground at a depth of over 60 meters. From each of these springs a water with its own characteristics flows, different from the others, so much so that they have been given four distinct names: Leopoldina, Regina, Tettuccio and Rinfresco. Acqua Leopoldina is used for hydropinic treatment thanks to its ability to purify the gastrointestinal tract; Acqua Regina serves above all to treat biliary tract dysfunctions and liver failure; Acqua Rinfresco promotes diuresis, the elimination of waste and the restoration of mineral salts; and finally, Acqua Tettuccio is effective in purifying the liver and acts on the gastric mucosa promoting digestion.
Things to do and things to see in Montecatini Terme: monuments and spa resorts
Montecatini Terme has everything you need to guarantee a funny and relaxing holiday. The spas are flanked by the numerous clubs, restaurants and discos highly appreciated by young people, shopping in the streets of the center and the many events that take place throughout the year, especially on weekends.
The city, however, is not only an oasis of relaxation and fun but also a beautiful place to visit, with many interesting things to see:
We begin our visit from the main square, Piazza del Popolo, that is located near the train station Montecatini Centro. From the square starts viale Verdi, the city’s main road axis; along this nice boulevard we find all the main monuments and the spas of Montecatini.
After the very first stretch of the avenue you’ll reach the Palazzina Regia (1783) commissioned by Pietro Leopoldo and the Palazzo Comunale inside which the Montecatini Museum of Contemporary Art is located.
The MO.C.A. (Montecatini Contemporary Art) was inaugurated in 2012 as the first civic gallery in Montecatini. Inside you can admire works by world-renowned artists such as Pietro Annigoni and Joan Mirò. The MO.C.A. in addition to hosting a permanent collection, it is often home to temporary thematic exhibitions.
For all information on timetables, tickets and exhibitions, I refer you to the museum’s official website.
Continuing on the final stretch of viale Verdi is the Excelsior, the first of the spas, the Terme Leopoldine (1777) and the spas Tamerici (1901) and Regina (1920s). A little further on, at the end of the Avenue, we arrive at the monumental Tettuccio built in neoclassical style in 1779. Another spa, the Terme Redi, is located in viale Alessandro Bicchierai.
From the avenue you can also reach the Parco Termale, a real green lung of Montecatini. The park is located near all the main spas (the Tamerici spa is located directly inside it) and represents a further magnificent opportunity for recreation and relaxation within the city. The Parco Termale is used as a location for sporting events and various initiatives and it’s also the house of the Città di Babbo Natale (City of Santa Claus) which attracts a large number of visitors during the Christmas period.
The spas of Montecatini are all very beautiful and of a high standard, in fact their fame speaks for itself; however, there is one that perhaps stands out for its majestic architecture: the Tettuccio spa.
Known as “Bagno Nuovo” since the 14th century, the thermal baths owe their name because of a canopy (“tettoia” in italian) that covered the first spring. The magnificent building that we can admire today was built on a project by the architect Gaspero Maria Paoletti between 1779 and 1781 and renovated by Ugo Giovannozzi between 1916 and 1928 following the model of the Roman baths. This amazing complex is characterized by a large monumental entrance, imposing colonnades, Carrara marble statues and many decorations of all kinds. Spas like these, you will find them only in Montecatini!
Funicular to Montecatini Alto
At this point you should take the funicular to go up to Montecatini Alto. The funicular station is located in Viale Diaz, just beyond the headquarters of the Museo di arte contemporanea dell’Accademia d’arte “Dino Scalabrino”. This museum has a large collection of works produced from the nineteenth century onwards by both Italian and foreign artists.
The funicular that connects the two Montecatini dates back to 1898 and is therefore the second oldest in Italy, after that of Naples which dates back to 1880. Climbing aboard its red trains it will seem to you to take a dip in the past: there isn’t a more romantic way to reach Montecatini Alto!
For timetables and prices, I leave you the link to the funicular website.
What to see around Montecatini Terme
Montecatini is located in the province of Pistoia, a very variegated area that ranges from the Valdinievole to the mountain. In this area of Tuscany there are many interesting places to visit like the other spa town in the area, Monsummano Terme, and some medieval hamlets like Pescia and Cutigliano.
How to get to Montecatini Terme
By train: Montecatini Terme is easily reachable with regional trains both from Florence and from other Tuscan cities such as Pistoia and Lucca. If you come from outside the region, for example from Rome, you can reach Florence with a high-speed train and then take a regional train.
By car: to reach the city by car you will need to take the A11 Firenze – Mare motorway to the Montecatini Terme exit.