The Splendours of Montecatini

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A walk through one of Europe’s most glamorous spa towns

Tuscany is where two of Europe’s foremost cultural routes cross, one an ancient pilgrim’s path to Rome and the other a network of spa towns across the continent.

"One of the manifestations of the splendours of Montecatini"

Such a crossing may be a great starting point, but eventually, you have to decide which way you are going – or, at the very least, which way you will be going first.

Which is why today we are exploring the European Route of Thermal Heritage: a group of currently two dozen thermal towns in Europe – the network is still growing – which have joined together to protect their rich common heritage as places of cultural exchange throughout European history.

Read also: The Architecture in Montecatini

Members of the European Historic Thermal Towns Association (which sponsors the Route) include spa towns from Bath in Britain to Bursa in Turkey – which is probably the right moment to point out that it was the Council of Europe, which features 47 member states rather than the EU’s 28, that launched the Cultural Routes Program in 1987. (Practically everybody in Europe is a member of the Council – with the exception of Belarus and the Vatican.)

Bearing in mind the geographical scope of the network, it is clear that this European Route is best discovered not by hiking from spa town to spa town but by concentrating your walking on the trails and promenades of each individual resort. Which is what we are doing today, on our tour of the Tuscan spa town of Montecatini.

"a fountain in Tettuccio Terme in Montecatini"

Assuming that you are starting your walk in the morning, you will first want to turn your attention to the thermal springs themselves. The slightly saline Montecatini water – which is said to be good for many things – should be physically ingested, so you will need to join the queue at the faucets (like Marcello Mastroianni in Fellini’s film 8 1/2). You should be careful not to overdose, however, because the water is said to have a strong laxative effect.

"faucets of thermal water in Tettuccio Terme in Montecatini"

The buildings of the Terme have been conceived on the grandest of scales, as a magnificent theatre stage for guests, patients and flaneurs. The overall optical effect of the complex is quite breathtaking …

"Inside one of the splendours of Montecatini - Tettuccio Terme"

… and echoed all the way down the main Boulevard of the town, Via Verdi, with City Hall – right opposite the modern wellness centre – the most impressive of the supporting cast.

"City Hall of Montecatini"

Montecatini’s Mayor Giuseppe Bellandi found the time to welcome our group, even to give us a short tour through the building …

"Montecatini’s Mayor Giuseppe Bellandi"

Montecatini’s Mayor Giuseppe Bellandi

… although he was in the last days of his reelection campaign and should have probably been out on the trail shaking hands and kissing babies. For that generous gesture alone, we wish him the best of luck on election day (he also appears to be a genuinely nice man) – and although we are uncertain whether this is anything to go by, we do not want it to let it go unmentioned that the last town Mayor who extended a personal welcome to the Easy Hikers, Mr. Michalis Petropoulos of Ios in Greece, was confortably re-elected the following weekend. Just saying.

Read also: Eating in Tuscany

Montecatini in its hey-day was one of the hot spots of the European jet set, much like Monte Carlo. (Prince Rainier and Princess Grace spent their honeymoon in Montecatini’s Grand Hotel La Pace.) Cobblestones on the Viale Verde have brass inlays to remind the passers-by in whose footsteps they are treading. (I expected to find a litany of mainly Italian celebrities, of internationally little known 19th century poets and TV stars from the 70s, but this was a place where Hollywood royalty like Audrey Hepburn, Robert DeNiro, Douglas Fairbanks once rubbed elbows with folk like Henry Kissinger, Rene Magritte and Marie Curie, all basking in the splendours of Montecatini.)

From Terme, we continue to Montecatini Alto, the medieval village perched on top of the hill. If you feel sufficiently reinvigorated after your trip to the springs, you may want to walk all the way up: the trail will take you between 45 minutes and 1 hour …

"walking path leading up to Montecatini Alto"

… but otherwise, you can also take the Funicolare di Montecatini.

Montecatini Alto is a pretty little town with cafés, small artisan shops and much else to discover.

"one of the splendours of Montecatini - Montecatini Alto"

The Teatro Rissoti – the one with the turrets on the bottom of the street …

"Piazza in Montecatini Alto"

… was built as a local Parliament but used as a theatre before, nowadays, being operated as a Pizzeria –  “not that it makes much difference”, says our guide Laura.

Ah, Italy!


Our trip to Tuscany was made possible on the invitation of the Council of Europe/European Commission Joint Programme 2013-2014 on European Cultural Routes, realized in co-operation with the European Institute of Cultural Routes (EICR).

We thank Hotel Astoria and Hotel Restaurant Torretta for allowing us to experience the warm hospitality of Montecatini first hand. 

Don’t miss our next post about our #ThermalTrip and #FrancigenaTrip for the cultural #CrossingRoutes by following us on Facebook and Twitter. Better still, subscribe to our free updates via email.

8 comments to The Splendours of Montecatini

  • Montecatini is definitely a must visit destination in Tuscany, Mary.

  • I love all that architecture and I can just imagine how glamorous this town was in its heyday. Montecatini Alto looks absolutely beautiful. I’ve only visited Bath but this area looks even more interesting.

  • It is a lovely place, Jackie. And a great place to detox, after eating all the great Tuscan dishes

  • Oh you’ve added another temptation to our ever lengthening bucket list! Hope our paths cross again one of these days. . .

  • Thanks, jeff. We’ll inform you as soon as we know if the mayor has been reelected!

  • Wonderful journey and such exquisite architecture! Loved all of the faucets and tiled mosaics overhead! Stunning! By the way, was the mayor re-elected? ; ) Glorious pics as always!

  • I wouldn’t be surprised if they were part of the European Historic Termal Towns Association. But what their water’s medicinal purpose is, I wouldn’t know.

  • This is amazing! I visited few of these SPA cities, including Bath, but never had an opportunity to use it as a patient or convalescent (not sure if that’s the proper word). It reminded me a post published by Catherine on baths in Budapest. Is it similar? I’m looking forward the other posts from Italy!

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