Montecatini Terme is a worldwide appreciated therapeutic and vacation resort in the hub of Tuscany, situated in Val di Nievole, in Pistoia’s province, at 15 km. far from the city of Pistoia, at 29 from Lucca and at 40 from Florence.
Montecatini Terme is a healthy, refined, peaceful and relaxing town surrounded by green hills and with abundant green areas in the town itself, featured by the outstanding Liberty architecture of its main buildings (private villas, luxurious hotels, theatres, casinos and cultural circles) and by its famous and stylish spas, surrounded by large and wonderful Italian, English or French gardens, which have been traditionally frequented by illustrious personalities coming from everywhere, including members of the European royalty, international politic personages, musicians, artists, writers, as well as celebrated theatre and cinema stars.
The upper an oldest part of the town is called Montecatini Alto, standing at almost 300 metres above the sea level. The pretty former medieval citadel is reachable from Montecatini Terme by a railway funicular with a lovely first 20th look.
Montecatini Terme is also an ideal base to combine some wealthy holidays with daily trips to discover or to visit again each preferred site in Tuscany.
The beautiful spa town has a regular population of around 22,500 inhabitants, but its hotel trade, composed of more than 230 establishments, is as big as varied as to host around 2 millions tourists a year. The town is also the home of the celebrated Museum and Academy of Art “D. Scalabrino” (Viale Armando Diaz, 6), which hosts an important collection from the 19th century, including paintings, sculptures, furnishing and other notable art works.
The advantageous effects of Montecatini’s thermal hot springs (saline, sulphate and alkaline waters) of volcanic origin have been recognized since Roman times, but in the second half of the 18th century they were significantly re-evaluated as in Italy as abroad, so the current important stylish thermal town started to develop around them. At the beginning of the 20th century Montecatini Terme already was one of the most well-known and elegant thermal towns in Europe.
The hot curatives waters emerge to the surface from a deepness of around 1,000 metres, reaching an external temperature of 33º C, approximately. Each thermal spring is characterized by a different saline concentration depending on the subsoil of provenance. Because of, the waters can be classified among sweet, medium or hard, what makes them appropriated for each specific medicinal use.
Montecatini Terme hosts eight celebrated spas: The Istituto Grocco and The Excelsior Terme (opened the whole year), while Terme La Salute, Terme Leopoldine, Terme Redi, Terme Tamerici, Terme Tettuccio Regina and Terme Torretta are opened from May to October. All these spas offer a long range of thermal treatments prescribed for liver, colon, asthma, rhinitis, pharyngitis, gingivitis and rheumatism illness, as well as skin complaints, which are treated with an ample sort of procedures, comprising thermal bathes; drinking the medicinal waters, rich in mineral contents; vapour inhalations; mud packs; hydro massages and aesthetic treatments.
Montecatini Alto, of Roman origin, was a noted mediaeval fortified town. The most important pages of its history started in the 11th century, when it was a fief of the Maona Counts, who constructed an imposing castle and started to fortify the town. Due to its strategic position on the summit of a hill in Val di Nievole, the citadel became the main military centre in the valley, which possession was violently disputed between the nearby cities of Pistoia and Lucca. In 1177 the town participated in alliance with the Guelphs of Lucca, whose Bishopric had acquired a part of the fortress, in the war against the Ghibelines of Pistoia. In the 13th century Montecatini Alto, turned into a municipality, but after the Guelph defeat in the decisive Battle of Monteaperti, fought on the 4th September 1260, the citadel followed the fate of the entire Val di Nievole, passing into Imperial power and then into Lucca one. In 1315, the Ghibelline troops laid siege to Montecatini Alto and conquered it. In the following years the citadel manifested its adherence to the League of Val di Nievole, which generated the submission to the Florentine Republic, causing a violent Ghibeline offensive against Florence, so the citadel was given back to Lucca.
On July 1330 Florence with a powerful army got ready to conquer it. After a long and terrible siege the citadel felt into Florentine power, remaining submitted to Florence until 1554, when the town was occupied by the French army, aimed to defend the Republic of Siena from the increasing Medicean power in Tuscany. In 1555 Montecatini was conquered again by the troops of Cosimo I de Medici and its superb fortifications were almost razed to the ground. Until then Montecatini had been an imposing citadel, encircled by around 2 kilometres of massive fortified walls, with 7 sizeable entrances doors and 25 defensive huge towers.
Currently Montecatini Alto is a beautiful village, with great panoramic views over the surrounding countryside and with a splendid main square lined by impressing ancient buildings, stylish antiques shops and charming restaurants with gardened terraces.
It is also the house of the pretty Oratory of San Sebastiano, with a 17th spectacular portico, ideally preserved, and of the outstanding Church of San Pietro Apostolo, of Romanesque origin, rebuilt in the 19th century, after being faithfully redesigned by the brilliant architect, archaeologist and engineer Antonio Zannoni (Faenza, 1833 - Bologna, 1910).
Adjoined to the church stands the Museum of the Rectory of St. Peter Apostle (Via Prataccio, 7), which hosts an ample and high interesting collection of religious art, from which make stand out a precious Gothic reliquary and the relics of St. Barbara, the saint patroness of Montecatini, as well as several pieces of outstanding furnishing and Tuscan wooden paintings from the 12th to the early 16th century, some of them attributed to Andrea di Orcagna and to Andrea del Sarto.
Where to eat:
-Enoteca Giovanni (Via Garibaldi, 27, Montecatini Terme). Is a stylish and innovative restaurant with a distinguished ambience, which is considered one of the best restaurants in Northern Tuscany. It offers a delicate and exquisite cuisine based on old local recipes. Wine list is as ample as first-rate.
A full meal is over 60 €.
- Ristorante “La Polveriera” (Via Marlianese, 4, Montecatini Terme). Is a beautiful and popular restaurant standing in a great panoramic spot. Its cuisine is based on local tasty dishes and marine specialties carefully prepared. Seafood is excellent. Wine list is very good.
A full meal is around 40 €.
- Trattoria “Le Prunecce” (Via Montaccolle, 14, Montecatini Terme). Is a charming and friendly trattoria from the first 20th, run from generations by a local family. Hand made pasta, vegetables and game meats are absolutely delicious. Local wines are fine.
A full meal is around 30 €.
- Ristorante “La Torre” (Piazza Giusti, 8/9, Montecatini Alto). Is a friendly and well-known restaurant with a lovely gardened terrace for meals in seasons, offering an ample and great range of local and Tuscan specialties. Home made desserts and house wines are great.
A full meal is around 40 €.
- Ristorante “La Rughetta” (Piazza Giusti, 7, Montecatini Alto). Is a charming and busy restaurant with a sizeable terrace for meals in season, offering a tasteful Tuscan traditional cuisine. Cold meats and local cheeses are not to be missed. Local wines are good.
A full meal is around 35 €.
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