Montecatini Terme is an Italian municipality (comune) of c. 20,000 inhabitants in the province of Pistoia, Tuscany, central Italy. It is the most important center in Valdinievole. The town is located at the eastern end of Piana di Lucca and has a strong vocation for tourism, as well as industrial and commercial industries related to the spa, which in turn has increased the interest for hotel accommodation in the region.
|Comune di Montecatini Terme|
Location of Montecatini Terme in Italy
Montecatini Terme (Tuscany)
|Coordinates: 43°52′58″N 10°46′16″E|
|Frazioni||Montecatini Alto, Nievole, Vico|
|• Mayor||Giuseppe Bellandi|
|• Total||17.69 km2 (6.83 sq mi)|
|Elevation||29 m (95 ft)|
|• Density||1,200/km2 (3,000/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+1 (CET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+2 (CEST)|
|Patron saint||St. Barbara|
|Saint day||4 December|
The presence of man in the area of Montecatini is very old. Probably from Paleolithic times the region was frequented by itinerant hunters, but only from the Mesolithic period is there evidence of numerous settlements especially in the hills of the Valdievole.
From Medieval times to the Medici
The existence of Montecatini Castello, today’s Montecatini Alto, was already documented in medieval times. In the settlement there was already a spa, thanks to the salt waters of the city, which later also flowed into the plain below. There is evidence for this in a document from 1340 which refers to the extraction of salt from the water. There is also proof in a letter sent by the merchant Francesco di Marco Datini in which he requests from his doctor the healing water of the Montecatini baths. Other evidence comes from the famous doctor Ugolino of Montecatini who examined the waters scientifically for the first time. He also tells us that there were three baths in Montecatini; the Bagno Della Regina, the Bagno dei Merli and the Bagno Nuovo. Today the Bagno Nuovo is known as the Tettuccio.
In Medieval times the inhabitants of the city found themselves in conditions of real discomfort, having to fight epidemics, diseases and wars. The battles between the cities (Florence, Pisa and Lucca) that took place in Montecatini forced the population to move to the surrounding hills, because the town was the scene of continuous clashes. We must also remember that Montecatini was mainly constituted of padule (marshes). Tito Livio confirms this when he described how Hannibal of Carthage passed by the padule of Fucecchio in his march to the south.
From the tenth century until 1270 with the Republic of Lucca, attempts were made to reclaim the territory, which was affected by epidemics of malaria. However the work was not completed successfully and resulted in pools of water being created where the water stagnated. In these muddy waters many men found death at the Battle of Montecatini in 1315. It is thought that Dante Alighieri participated in this battle. In 1328 the Medici came to power and the locks that had been dismantled with the reclamation were restored.
From the rule of the Medici in the Valdinievole to the house of Habsburg-Lorraine.
From 1339 the Valdinievole was under the dominion of the Medici in Florence, who did not bring important benefits to the Baths and the City of Montecatini.
Cosimo Medici was the first person to build a bridge-dam to cross the muddy waters of the area. The initiative brought great economic improvements, but it was detrimental to the inhabitants of the Valdinievole. In 1447 Florence approved a contribution to the restoration of the buildings belonging to the Baths. Because of its location Montecatini was often a battlefield. In fact in 1554 it was the center of the clash between Charles V, allied with Cosimo I, and the Sienese and French militias which, under the command of Pietro Strozzi, were stationed in the castle of Montecatini. As a result, Cosimo had the castle dismantled. In 1529 the owner of the Baths of Montecatini had financial problems so he offered them to Cosimo, who would become Duke in 1532, and Grand Duke, thanks to his nomination by Pope Pius V, in 1569. Since the consort of Cosimo, Eleonora of Toledo, made frequent use of the waters of Montecatini, the Medici had the baths analyzed by their agents. However the proposal did not go through. In 1538 the offer was made again to Francis I, son of Cosimo. However, he had to grant the use of the baths to the citizens of Montecatini. In those years the population and the economy of the Valdinievole grew. However, between 1500 and 1756 there were repeated epidemics because of the flooding of the meadows, forests, fields and pastures, due to the collapse of the bridge at Cappiano. During their regency the Medici profited from a lot of things including renting farms and fishing. As a result there were lawsuits to defend the residents of the area and to enable them to pay for the reclamation of the padule with the money they recovered. In 1737 the house of Medici became extinct. The great European powers gathered in Vienna in 1738 and agreed that Tuscany would be assigned to Habsburg-Lorraine.
The House of Habsburg-Lorraine: founders of the spa town
Francesco I of Lorraine and Maria Teresa of Austria went to Florence in 1739 and stayed there for three months. They then entrusted the government to a Council of Regency that operated until 1765. The Regency tried to resolve promptly the problem of reclaiming the marshes, but the whole thing was more difficult than expected. In those years, epidemics, fevers and famines again appeared. To solve the problem it was necessary to settle the land near the padule by channeling the springs that were stagnating in the Valdinievole and invigorating the agriculture and livestock. In 1765, with the death of Francesco, Pietro Leopoldo succeeded him assuming the title of Grand Duke, as his mother, Maria Teresa of Austria, had scrupulously prepared him for the responsibilities of reigning. Unfortunately, as a second son, he only inherited the throne in Vienna during the last two years of his life (1790-92). In 1765 he arrived in Tuscany and immediately proved himself open to innovation. During his regency he transformed Palazzo Pitti into the seat of the wisest, most just, humane and progressive government in the Europe of his time. He was also an innovator in the management of the economy, public administration, health and science. As a reformer, he knew how to treat Tuscany as a nation with common values and customs. He went several times to Montecatini to understand first-hand the problems of the Valdinievole and as a result the story of the baths began with the Grand Duke Leopold of Tuscany. He had the territory inspected by great scholars and tried to make the most just and reasonable decisions for it. The Grand Duke went to Montecatini in 1772 and ordered the demolition of the locks and the weirs of Ponte a Cappiano. The channeling of the thermo-mineral waters and the restoration of the City began. Pietro Leopoldo returned many times, even with his family, to Montecatini to check the state of the works. On 1 March 1790 he left Florence to return for Vienna to succeed his brother Josef who had died.
The third Grand Duke was Ferdinando III who ascended the Tuscan throne when he was only 21 years old. He did not have a very easy reign because of the Napoleonic restoration and, in the early years of his rule, he followed a neutral line. He was exiled by Napoleon and when he returned to Tuscany he was very active in dealing with the questions that arose after the French domination. He implemented a policy of true tolerance. On 10 June 1817 the Bagni di Montecatini complex passed from Ferdinand to the community and they were given money to keep them efficient. On June 18, 1818 the baths were put under the management of a committee up of esteemed people of the time, including Giuseppe Giusti's father. With this new administration of the baths there were innovations and improvements. When Ferdinand III died, he was succeeded by Leopold II who is remembered for the reclamation work in the Maremma and for the construction of railways and roads. Leopold II also collaborated in the construction of the Locanda Maggiore. The Lorraine period concluded with the Risorgimento and the end of the Grand Duchy occurred in 1859. In 1860 Montecatini came under the Province of Lucca with its headquarters in Montecatini Alto. In 1889, thanks to the international medical congress in Florence, the City commenced activity in the field of thermal medicine. In the same year, the urban project proposed and initiated by Pietro Leopoldo was extended and improved.
The Twentieth Century
On 16 June 1905 Montecatini Alto and Bagni di Montecatini became autonomous municipal entities. On 28 October 1928 the name of the Bagni di Montecatini was changed to Montecatini Terme. In 1928 the municipality of Montecatini, together with all the other municipalities of the Valdinievole, passed from the province of Lucca to the newly formed province of Pistoia. Between 1904 and 1915 the Torretta and Excelsior establishments were born. Giovannozzi restored the Leopoldine and Tettuccio baths between 1919 and 1928. Mussolini also went to the establishments to see how the funds given by the State for their restoration had been spent and entrusted their administration to Schweiger. In 1958 the State reappropriated the baths, symbolizing a second phase with the reconstruction of the Redi and Excelsior baths. Montecatini in those years was frequented by important persons; nobility and people from the worlds of entertainment and politics. In 1970 the baths remained open all year, but from that moment on there has been a slow decline until today, when the fashion for visiting the spa has clearly diminished. Efforts to relaunch the baths began in the 1990s and the City succeeded in doing this in 2000. The emblem of the municipality is regulated by the Royal Decree of 12 August 1908. It is a truncated shield: the first version is of Montecatini which is blue and mounted on six small Italian hills, supporting two gold lions surrounded by an oval silver shield laden with a red lily, facing each other and holding a red basin; in the second version everything is handled in silver and blue. The motto, also present in the coat of arms and in the banner states: «Salus» (Latin: Health).
Monuments and places of interest
- The Church of Santa Maria Assunta (1962). The decision to build a religious edifice was taken in 1824. Work on the current building began in 1957 and finished in 1962. It is an octagonal building with four lateral chapels and a presbytery.
- The Church of Saints Jacopo and Filippo (or Carmine) (1764), located in Montecatini Alto. It was almost completely rebuilt in 1764 in Baroque style above a Romanesque building. It has a saddle-roofed façade.
- The Church of St. Peter (XVII century), originally the church of the castle of Montecatini. It became a parish church in the twelfth century, when the edifice was completely rebuilt. The present façade, which replaced a massive medieval tower, forms the end of the apse of the Romanesque church and was transformed into its present form in the seventeenth century. In the interior important works are preserved.
- The Convent and Church of Santa Maria a Ripa (XVI century). The monastic building is characterized by its severe style. The church is accessed via a stone staircase, probably dating back to the Romanesque era, as is the façade with its saddle-roof. Inside there is a single nave with vaulted ceilings and eighteenth century frescoes that have been brought to light.
- Villa Forini Lippi (XVII century) already existed in the seventeen hundreds. The present complex is the result of an aggregation of rural buildings. The façade is characterized by a beautiful staircase with a double stone ramp surmounted by an elegant loggia with three arches supported by balusters. Surrounded by a park of almost two hectares, the villa is currently home to the municipal library.
- The Palazzo Comunale (1914). Inside there are rich plaster decorations executed mostly by the firm of Alessandro del Soldato. The interior hall is interesting because of its double height and cantilevered balcony that divides the space into two overlapping Corinthian orders.
- The Padiglioncino Tamerici(1902) was built "for the storage and sale of Tameric salt". With its deliberately formal Art Nouveau and floral design, it is an exception in the City panorama. It is rich in bas-reliefs inspired by the manufacture of ceramics and represent the artist, the potter, the decorator and the kiln operator.
- The railway station (1937) has actually been active since 1853. The current building was inaugurated on August 4, 1937 because, with the increasing popularity of the spa, it had become necessary to build a larger one. The project was designed by the architect Angiolo Mazzoni.
- Teatro Verdi (1829), was designed between 1828 and 1829 by the architect Lodovico Fortini as a large open air theatre in the amusement park owned by the "Società delle Nuove Terme". It was inaugurated in 1930 with Giuseppe Verdi's Aida. In 1981 the theatre was extensively refurbished.
The Spa Complex
- Terme Excelsior (1968). The first building, dedicated to hosting the Casino, was designed by Giulio Bernardini and was inaugurated on 27 June 1907. In 1968 this first structure was demolished and rebuilt to a design by Sergio Brusa Pasquè. The typical architecture of the loggia draws inspiration from the Florentine Renaissance.
- Terme La Fortuna (1910s). The La Fortuna spring was discovered in 1853. In 1912 the building consisted of a rectangular-plan construction as well as a basement. The complex is located in a landscaped garden.
- Terme La Salute (1929) was discovered in 1860 in a travertine quarry. It was rebuilt between 1922 and 1929 on a site of 7250 square meters.
- Terme Nuove Redi (2009) was born in 1920 and was completely rebuilt in 1964. In 2009 it was renovated thanks to the project of the architect Oreste Ruggiero.
- Terme Regina (1927) is located inside the park of the Tettuccio and was founded in 1773. The current complex was built between 1923 and 1927 in the Neo-Renaissance style to a design by Ugo Giovannozzi.
- Terme Rinfresco (1927), now closed, was initially designed in 1795. The building was rebuilt in 1927 to a design by Ugo Giovannozzi. There is an interesting mosaic placed on the square in front of it. 15
- Terme Tamerici (1911) is located in the center of the spa park and is characterized by four distinct buildings. The thermal spring was discovered in 1843 and the buildings that compose it were partially demolished in 1909 to be rebuilt in 1911.
- Terme Tettuccio (1928) is peculiar in that it is "open" albeit with the exclusion of some local people. The first complex was designed by Gaspare Maria Paoletti between 1779 and 1781. In 1929 it was replanned with inspiration from the late Renaissance period.
- Terme Leopoldine (1926), named after Grand Duke Leopold II of Habsburg-Lorraine, was initiated in 1775. The current complex dates back to the restoration carried out between 1919 and 1926. It is currently closed.
- Terme Torretta (1928) takes its name from the river Toretta that flows through it. Built after 1829 by Count Baldino Baldini, the buildings underwent an important restoration operation between 1925 and 1928.
- The Walk of Fame is an installation placed along the pavement of Viale Giuseppe Verdi. It consists of a series of circular studs which show the names of the main personalities who have visited Montecatini Terme.
- Peter Grocco, doctor
- Sirio Maccioni, restaurateur of international fame
- Luca Cardelli, computer scientist
Christian Dior died in a hotel at Montecatini.
Giuseppe Verdi also lived for over 10 years in the city, benefiting from the local thermal center.
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Montecatini Terme.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Montecatini Terme.|
- "Superficie di Comuni Province e Regioni italiane al 9 ottobre 2011". Istat. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
- "Popolazione Residente al 1° Gennaio 2018". Istat. Retrieved 16 March 2019.