Montecatini Terme is famous for its thermal waters and can be considered one of the biggest “spa towns” in Italy.
At the turn of the 20th century, the amount of hotels started growing and so did the need to combine the thermal bathing with fun, relax and sport. A host of trendy restaurants, theatres, night clubs opened, as well as a casino, and a lot of celebrities began to visit the city. In fact, it was easy to meet people like Giuseppe Verdi, Pietro Mascagni, Ruggero Leoncavallo, Trilussa, Beniamino Gigli and Luigi Pirandello in the city centre and in the thermal parks.
Here are some hints on what to see and do in Montecatini Terme.
Thermal waters are the treasure of Montecatini. You can both drink the water of the Terme di Montecatini or do spa treatments - from massages to mud baths, saunas to beauty treatments.
There are nine thermal centres immersed in the green of the extensive thermal park. In terms of architecture, the spas of Montecatini are a great example of open-air Art Nouveau that are not-to-be-missed.
Viale Verdi is also known as “Vialone dei Bagni”. Along the “Viale” you can see:
- The “Palazzina Regia”, a sober building which was the summer residence of the Medici family.
- The War Memorial in the Royal Park, opposite to the Town Hall: it is a fine work of Giuseppe Petroni.
- The Town Hall is located on the right side of Viale Verdi: it was built between 1913 and 1919, in the place where there were the Grand-Ducal stables, to provide the city with a proper civic representative and appropriate to the size and role the city was taking.
- The Padiglione dei Sali (Pavilion of salts) is at the entrance of the Verdi theatre; it was a former kiosk for the sale of salts in the early twentieth century, now home to several businesses.
In Montecatini Terme, fountains are true masterpieces, not only within the spas, but also along the streets and in the main squares.
Fountains welcome tourists, starting from the entrance of the spa town. The most important ones are the Fountain Mazzoni in the square in front of the railway station, the Guidotti Fountain in Piazza del Popolo and the Fountain of Shingu, which surrounds the two spas of Leopoldine and Tettuccio in Piazza Giusti at the end of the long Vialone dei Bagni. There is also the fountain made by Pol Bury, in the upper part of the thermal park.
Montecatini Alto is the village with medieval origins, situated on the top of the hill that dominates Montecatini Terme. It can be reached in 5 minutes by car or in 10 minutes with the funicular railway, which dates back to the end of the 1800s and is still intact and functional.
Here you can visit the church and convent of Santa Maria a Ripa, built in the Romanesque style of the 12th century; the Church of St. Peter the Apostle of the 11th century with its white marble baptismal font; and a series of important and famous frescoes. There is also a church built by the Carmelite Fathers, called the Saints James and Philip (and also known as the Church of the Carmine). Another is the church and convent of Santa Margherita and the chapel in the square, built into the Tavarnelli tower.
In addition to religious buildings, you can see the ruins of the ancient walls that defended Montecatini.
Art lovers shouldn’t miss a visit to the art academy “Scalabrino”, which is located in the spa area: here you can admire 150 works by Lorenzo Viani, Galileo Chini, Amalia Dupre and Primo Conti.
Montecatini is a good destination for shopping: there are many haute couture shops. There are discos, cinemas and theatres, such as the famous Teatro Verdi, home to Miss Italia and many concerts. If you are a sports lover, you have plenty of choice in Montecatini: from golf to tennis, from biking to swimming and there is also a racecourse.