weekend away - Montecatini Terme
Written by Martha Bakerjian
Montecatini Terme, a perfect weekend getaway in the heart of northern Tuscany, is one of Italy's top spa towns, with mineral springs that have been famous since ancient times.
Montecatini's spring waters have long been known for their curative powers. In the late 18th century several spas were built, and the town of Montecatini Terme developed as a place to take treatments from these waters. From the large park with plenty of benches and shade to streets lined with shops, the town is laid out to make walking inviting, and promote a feeling of well-being.
Although the town still retains a relaxed atmosphere, there’s plenty to do. During summer the main street, Viale Verdi, is closed to traffic and becomes a lively pedestrian centre. Concerts are held at the spas, or in the theatres. You'll find nightlife in cafes such as Gran Caffé Gambrinus, one of the best.
Terme Tettuccio, a historic spa famous for its therapeutic thermal waters, is the top place to visit. This is a classic spa from bygone days, designed to promote health through drinking the waters and relaxing. Terme Tettuccio is a lavish Liberty-style building with a park, cafe, shops, and lots of places to sit outside. A musical ensemble performs most days, and outdoor evening concerts are scheduled periodically. It’s worth visiting just to see the beautiful interior. Buy a full day pass, or go in the afternoon when there’s a discounted tourist ticket. Open daily from May to September.
An array of traditional health and beauty spa treatments are available at other wellness centres, spas, and 5-star hotels throughout town.
Be sure to save time for visiting the medieval town, Montecatini Alto, reached via the historic funicular railway built in 1898. A short ride up the hill takes you to the old town, with remains of its castle and main square surrounded by shops, restaurants, and cafes. Views from the hill are worth the trip up.
Where to Stay
Hotels in Montecatini Terme are abundant so finding a room is easy. One of the most prestigious hotels, and one of the oldest, is the 5-star Grand Hotel & La Pace Spa, built in 1870. Common rooms still reflect the original Art Nouveau décor, and the hotel retains a peaceful atmosphere, surrounded by greenery yet right in town.
Grand Hotel & La Pace Spa was the first European hotel to have spa facilities (in 1875). It has been featured in films and many celebrities have stayed in its luxurious presidential suite.
Montecatini is about three hours by car or train (change trains in Florence) from either Rome or Milan.