Like any given town around here, you can’t swing a cat without knocking over some Roman ruins or Etruscan tombs. Then there are the stories about medieval border wars between Florence and Siena, and all the Renaissance hoopla. I hope I don’t sound bored or unimpressed by all of this—on the contrary, I’m overwhelmed. Sometimes experiencing Italy can be like trying to drink out of a fire hose.
So I’m taking a break from erudition today, and soaking myself in some rejuvenating bath waters. I’m on vacation, after all. Here I am in the little Tuscan “spa” town of Montecatini Terme, in the province of Pistoia, which has plenty of that famous history that I was referring to (Renaissance-Schmenaissance, blah, blah, blah), but also a more recent claim to fame which is no less interesting.
At the turn of the twentieth century, international tourism became the main activity in this area, thanks to the healing powers of the mineral-rich natural springs. Fancy hotels were built up along with trendy restaurants, night clubs, and even a posh casino which attracted the A-list celebs of the day, including people like Giuseppe Verdi, Ruggero Leoncavallo, and Luigi Pirandello. It was the Monte Carlo of its era; the place to see and be seen. It’s where the rich and famous came to part with their disposable income in high-society style.
But the therapeutic waters of the spas of Montecatini are the real treasure. The beneficial effects can be realized by either drinking it or bathing in it, depending of the condition that you’re attempting to cure. Of course, there are many other spa treatments available, from massages to mud baths; from saunas to beauty treatments. There are a total of nine thermal centers around town, all surrounded by lush green parks for your strolling pleasure.
Lest you doubt the healing powers of these natural mineral baths, here’s a great quote, direct from the www.welcometuscany.it website. For your amusement, I (obviously) did not correct their translation efforts:
“The waters have a purgative and laxative action, suitable for the care of gastroentenirale pathology. Besides in the center come practiced baths and mud baths in the care of vascular pathology, insufflazioni and aerosol against pathology of the respiratory streets, intestinal shower in the constipation.”
Besides the aforementioned health benefits, which are clearly beyond dispute, the architecture of some of these structures is truly unique and quite beautiful. Not the kind of design that you’d typically associate with Italy, but rather more reminiscent of the French Art Nouveau style. I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story, but suffice to say that the spas of Montecatini terme are THE place to be if you happen to be suffering from “an intestinal shower in the constipation.” Alla vostra salute!