History of the Thermal Baths

Montecatini Thermal Baths from their origins until today

A 600-year history of well-being and health with thermal waters.

The origins of Montecatini and its Thermal Baths

Montecatini's waters were used for thermal purposes as early as the Roman times, as proven by the votive statues dating back to that time found near the current crater of the Leopoldine thermal baths. However, the first documented written news of the Thermal Baths dates back to 1201, when they were mentioned in a parchment from Lucca. Soon after came the letter with which Francesco Datini, a well-known merchant from Prato and inventor of the bill of exchange, asked his doctor about the waters already used by a number of patients – hence, they were particularly famous already at the time.
However, the official history of Montecatini Thermal Baths began some 600 years ago, when renowned scholar Ugolino Simoni da Montecatini, regarded as the father of modern hydrology, examined the nature of mineral waters in one of his works (De Balneorum Italiea Proprietatibus ac Virtutibus written in 1417). For the first time he writes about a bath where peasants would immerse themselves to treat joint and back pain and a second bath to treat scabies. He also mentions a third bath, whose spring is sheltered under a small canopy (the future Tettuccio resort). The renowned scholar dates these first thermal facilities back to 1370, the year the Florentine Republic, which ruled over Montecatini, decided to build them.
Subsequently, Michele Savonarola, the naturalist doctor and professor of Medicine at the University of Padua between the 14th and 15th century, spoke of the thermal springs of Montecatini and called them "Bagno Tondo", "Bagno dei Cavalli" and "Bagno dei Merli" (Round Bath, Bath of the Horses and Bath of the Blackbirds, respectively.

The creation of the thermal resorts

The actual creation of the thermal resorts took place in the second half of the 18th century under the aegis of the enlightened Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo di Lorena.

Indeed, in 1773 works began to build the first facility, called Bagno Regio, and in immediately following years, the Leopoldine (1775) and Tettuccio (1779) resorts were built. The Grand Duke also ordered the construction of a building called the building of “Bibite gratuite” (free drinks) so that even the less wealthy classes could enjoy the beneficial properties of Montecatini's waters for free.

Even though it was already renowned at the time of Ugolino da Montecatini, mud therapy, which employed the famous radioactive mud of Montecatini, came back in fashion in 1928 with the construction of the crater for the extraction of the precious clayey substance within the complex of the Grocco facility.

The Belle Époque: the peak of success

The period between the 19th and 20th century, which culminated in the fifteen years at the beginning of the century called the Belle Époque, is undoubtedly the time when Montecatini reached the height of its fame thanks to the reputation of its curative waters, which persisted throughout the 20th century.

As shown by the artistic level and magnificence of the monuments, buildings and works of art in Art Nouveau style that can still be found in Montecatini Thermal Baths, the Belle Époque marked a period of great prosperity and fame for the town. This is when the élite intellectuals and aristocrats, not just from in Italy but also in the rest of Europe, started flowing into the thermal town of Valdinievole.

Figures of the calibre of Giuseppe Verdi, Ruggero Leocavallo, Giacomo Puccini, but also the King of Italy Vittorio Emanuele II went to Montecatini's Thermal Baths.

  • The cycle of mosaics decorated with figures of the Tettuccio facility made by Basilio Cascella
  • The Art Nouveau architecture of the majestic Hotel La Pace
  • The majestic design of the Kursaal theatre
  • The works of Galileo Chini

The Thermal Baths today

During the 20th century and until today, Montecatini Thermal Baths constantly increased its fame as the spa centre of excellence for traditional hydropinic therapy.
The remarkable reputation of Montecatini's Thermal Baths is not just shown by the long list of celebrities who went to its facilities throughout the 20th century, but also by the astonishing number of films and adverts that have been set there.