Montecatini Terme is situated in the Valdinievole area, 15 kilometres west of Pistoia (it is part of this province), 50 kilometres northwest of Florence and just 40 minutes by car from the Tyrrhenian coast. This Tuscan town is famous for its thermal waters and can be considered the biggest “spa town” in Italy.
At the turn of the twentieth century, tourism became more professional and diversified. There were more hotels and the need to combine the thermal bathing with fun, relax and sport. In those years, a host of trendy restaurants, theatres, night clubs, a casino opened 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.
What to see and do in Montecatini Terme
The thermal waters and the spas
Thermal waters are the treasure of Montecatini: in fact, spas were built around them. 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. Finally, in terms of architecture, the spas of Montecatini are a great example of open-air Art Nouveau that are not-to-be-missed!
For more information about the spas and their services: “Bathing in thermal waters, with history all around!” via Tuscany Arts.
In Montecatini Terme, fountains are true masterpieces. Water is the element of life and in Montecatini there are numerous fountains 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.
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.
Montecatini Alto and the funicular
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. 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 Academy “Scalabrino”
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.
Around Montecatini Terme
There are many medieval towns around Montecatini: Pescia, Montevettolini, Massa, Cozzile, Buggiano, Colle, Uzzano, Collodi with its Pinocchio Park and the beautiful Villa Garzoni, and Ponte Buggianese, with the famous frescoes by Annigoni.
For your free time
Montecatini is a good destination for shopping because 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.
How to get there
The nearest airports are:
- Florence (“Amerigo Vespucci” Airport)
- Pisa (“Galileo Galilei” Airport)
Take the “Firenze Mare” motorway and exit at Montecatini Terme.
- From Milano: Autostrada del Sole (A1) towards Florence, take the Firenze-Mare (A11) direction Pisa, exit at Montecatini Terme.
- From Rome: Motorway towards Florence (A1), take the Firenze-Mare (A11) direction Pisa, exit at Montecatini Terme.
- From Genoa: Genoa Livorno Motorway (A12), take the Firenze Mare (A11) towards Florence, exit at Montecatini Terme.
Montecatini has two train stations – Montecatini Terme and Montecatini Centro – and can be considered a good starting point for a daily trip to Lucca, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia and more.
In Montecatini Terme, there is also a funicular railway. Here is the timetable.