Montecatini, Italy

Montecatini, in northern Tuscany, is situated midway between Lucca and Florence. It was developed as a tourist town and is one of the few cities in the world where this resulted in a rare sparkling gem rather than a fake jewel.

Humans have inhabited Tuscany for more than 7,000 years, first as nomadic hunters and later as small farmers. As city states rose in power, Montecatini’s position high in the hills made it a prize contested by warring factions. When Medici forces seized it in the mid-1500s, it was first plundered, then destroyed, its buildings dismantled wall by wall until less than 200 structures remained.Montecatini, Tuscany, ItalyMontecatini did not fully recover its power until the beginning of the 20th century. It was long known that thermal mineral springs lay at the foot of the city’s hill. Baths were built in the late 1700s and the site became popular with regional residents. Another century brought the phenomenon that would transform Montecatini – tourism.

The old medieval town atop the hill became known as Montecatini Alto while down below Montecatini Terme quickly became the center of interest. The hot springs area, Terma Tettuccio, was developed as a spa parkland within the new city, with grand hotels, plazas, green parkland, and pools framing the waters.

To accommodate the growing crowds, more hotels were built beyond the Tettuccio, along with restaurants, theaters, and nightclubs. The reigning architecture of the time was Liberty style, Italy’s version of Art Nouveau, complete with columns, flowing curves, vaulted arcades and lavish embellishments. Because so many Liberty style buildings erected in Montecatini have been preserved, the city today has a fantasy-like quality that’s as much of a drawing card as the springs themselves.

Montecatini can be reached by car, train, or bus from either Lucca or Florence in little more than an hour. While many come for the mineral waters, more come to enjoy one of the most visually delightful towns in Italy.

A cable car now connects the two Montecatinis and while most visitors stay in Montecatini Terme, a trip to the city’s older half is a must. The ride takes less than 10 minutes each way and the views are spectacular. At the top, spend some time exploring Montecatini’s medieval soul, shop for souvenirs at the Grocco Market or have a meal in the Piazza Giusti before heading back down.

Scenery, architecture and lively restaurants are also a draw in Montecatini Terme. The Tettuccio and grand buildings are memorably elegant, while the central commercial district is lined with boutiques. Don’t miss sampling cialde, the delicate wafer cookie that’s a regional specialty.

The climate of Montecatini is generally mild. Mid-May through early September are the most crowded months, leading many to recommend a spring or fall visit. Aficionados of the thermal springs claim the healing waters are even more beneficial in the winter. No matter what your reasons for visiting are, there’s really no wrong time of year to find oneself in Montecatini.




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