During the Belle Époque age Enrico Caruso soaked and sang here; Giuseppe Verdi came here for 19 years beginning in 1882; Teatro Verdi in the town square is named after him, and still delivers his outstanding compositions. Other notable cultured guests included Giacomo Pucini, Arturo Toscanini, Gioacchinio Rosini, and Pietro Mascagni. I am in the Tuscan Terme Town of Città di Montecatini, Italy. (Opening photo of Terme Regina.)
I took the €7 rail ride from Florence on the Viareggio track and an hour later I was at the Coreo Matteotti train station; there are two Montecatini stations, get off at the first one unless travelling from Lucca or Pisa, then it is the second stop. The Coreo seemed abandoned; a solo cab driver was asleep so I walked the three short blocks to my four-star Royal Palace Hotel, across the street from Terme Redi. It was Autumn and the giant maples left golden three-toed tracks on the sidewalk, and I rustled the leaves.
The beautiful Terme Tettuccio complex.
For centuries, Montecatini was known for its regenerative hot springs; the Romans must have known about them. It takes thousands of years for rain water to percolate through the limestone, jaspers, and clay, and then spill into the beautiful town park where the original Belle Époque spas were clustered:. Terme Tamerici, Terme Leopoldine, and Terme Toretta are at different compass points surrounding the giant complex of Terme Tettuccio. Even their names sound atmospheric. Other spas near by were Terme La Salute and Terme Regina. In the town square (Piazzo del Popolo) the former casino and grand cafe, Excelsior, is today a thermal establishment, located on Viale Verdi, just up the street from the Teatro Verdi.
The Terme Tettuccio buildings plunge out of the park gardens and harks back to the gilded age architecture, and it still operates as a spa but on a limited schedule. It hosts the Sala del Caffé or Coffee House, where I received my daily afternoon grind of cappuccino. The cafe is an Art Nouveau attraction with frescos by Ciulic Bargellini, and landscape paintings by Marli Biseo. The Sala della Scrittura (Writing Room) is decorated by Giuseppe Moroni.
Belle Époque Sala del Caffé served great composers.
The Gran Caffe Gambrinus was inaugurated in 1931 on the premises of the Locando Maggiore, the most fashionable place to be seen at the time. The Circolo dei Forestieri (Visitor's Club) is an Art Nouveau jewel in the Tamerici thermal building and still honors its past vocation as a center for culture, concerts, exhibitions, and conferences. The prosperous gardens of Villa Forini Lippi once the seat of the Municipale Library, was now an exclusive outdoor cinema venue — called Poletima Theater a hundred years ago — now called the Imperiale Cinema Theater.
While I was in Montecatini the annual October Food&Book festival was happening at Terme Tettuccio in the columned open air pavilion. An expansive regional wine tasting event was held one afternoon where hundreds of vintners displayed their latest elixirs. Lectures and conferences about the Italian slow food movement discussed the future of the philosophy. An entire salon was dedicated to books related to food and wine, and all published in Italian.
The Food&Book festival is held in Autumn.
The next morning I checked into the Terme Redi for the maximum allowed hour (€13) of relaxation in the thermal co-ed pool. I was issued a bathing cap and slippers and then showered and was ushered in to the joyous waters. A contented swimmer paddled around with a big grin on her face. I punched the button for a heavy splash of water out of a pipe overheard that water massaged my skeleton. The 33°C waters tasted slightly of sodium, which cleansed my skin to a smooth polish. I had a big grin too when I skittered over to a chaise lounge and soaked in the sun like a complacent lizard.
The ultra-modern Terme Redi.
The following day I signed up for the €40 hot mud bath, more of a hot mud pack. No one in the reception area spoke English so I pointed to the treatment in Redi's extensive spa catalog and set the time. A qualified on-site doctor had to prescribe where the mud would be placed on my body, but she didn't speak English either, so she called someone that could communicate and I explained my needs; the doctor pulled out a body chart and penciled in the areas for the mud packs.
Terme Redi's thermal pool.
Once in the light-filled treatment room the attendant wheeled in a barrel of hot mud. Stripped down, I stretched out on the cushioned table on a paper sheet and then he slapped on the packets of mud according to the chart. Each mud satchel steamed after he covered me like a papoose with the sheet; I was in a mud oven, and sweated like a day laborer. After 20 minutes my skin was pouring perspiration. Then I was ordered in Italian to jump into the hot water in the Jacuzzi. I was totally drained when he dried and wrapped me in a warm blanket. The treatment is for skin and skeleton problems; I was so wasted I drank quarts of water and juice at the health bar, but I felt skin-sational. Ya-Haw.
Get a massage with a hot mud treatment.
Terme Redi was originally built in the 1950s but was torn down, redesigned, rebuilt, and expanded in1965. Only three of the thermal establishments are open in the Autumn: Terme Excelsior, Terme Tettuccio, and Terme Redi. On the local map I obtained from the tourist office in the town square each spa location is marked with a big T.
Terme Redi offers many types of massages: Hawaiian Lomi Lomi, Swedish, Thai, Volcanic Hot Stones, and California. I wanted to try them all, such as the Coffee Flavour Candle Massage, the ChromeAromatherapy massage, and the unique Lymphatic Draining Massage. which is a delicate massage that reduces water retention and increases the uptake of oxygen to the cells.
Volcanic stone massage with essential oils.
Terme Redi has a complete Ayurvedic treatment area that includes Mukhabhyangam facial massage that activates the senses. The Shrobhyangam is a neck and shoulder massage that reinforces the nervous system and internal organs. Thandabhyangam is a back massage for the skeletal system, reinforcing the spine to reduce aches and pains. The Padabhyangam massage is for the feet and legs to stimulate the body organs to reduce insomnia and nervous disorders. The Abyhangam is a full body massage that relaxes and restores inner balance using special oils. The Ayurvedic of flow is called Shrodaba; this seasonal treatment uses the constant flow of sesame oil, customized to your needs. It has a balancing effect on the brain and stimulates the endocrine system.
Thermal Aqualux combines tanning & hydrotherapy.
Terme Redi is not just a resort spa, it is a full medical clinic. No hotel is attached to it, but most of the luxury digs in Montecatini offer stay and wellness packages with Terme Redi that included: physical therapy, hydroponic therapy (drink the water on a strict regimen), ozone and mud baths, inhalation therapies, anti-aging programs, nutritional counseling, esthetic and weight loss treatments, facials, beauty treatments, physiotherapies, yoga and Pilates, dermal and defoliant treatments, and endermology (cellulite therapy).
Endermologie LPG reduces cellulite.
Terme Redi even has some unusual packages, such as the Mango and Coconut Oil Wellness Experience, that included Jacuzzi, massage, and a covering of soft creams. Here's another one: Cocoa, Cinnamon, and Vanilla Fragrances that included a Turkish bath and sauna with sensory changing lights, thermal water showers, cocoa sauvange, face and body cocoa wrap and massage. Another Ya-Haw.
For all you glamsters there is the Strawberry and Champagne Experience that includes a Turkish bath, sauna with sensory changing lights, thermal water showers, strawberry face massage, and champagne body wrap and massage. Believe me, there are many more outstanding treatments at Redi, such as the Just-for-Him Experience, that included thermal bath, Jacuzzi, California massage, and yes you machos, a mud facial. The Moms-to-Be package included thermal Jacuzzi ozone bath, that oxygenates the skin, with a lymphatic draining massage, and a vitamin face mask. Suitable after the first trimester. For romance there is the Couples Massage.
Body rain massage at Terme Redi.
Terme Redi has a physiotherapy program with a complete gym and water exercise plans. They offer osteopathic analysis, growth program, 3D posture analysis and treatments, Instrumental Physiotherapies that included laser therapy, ultrasound, magneto and paraffin therapies, Diadynamic, ems complex, and much more. Each aspect of these therapies were priced separately, but ask about a complete package deal.
Each Terme has different minerals in their water and they have come together to mix them into a single line of natural cosmetics, oils, creams, balms, bath and body gels, muds, and sprays, called Terme di Montecatini. Ingredients included olive and grape seed oils, purifying thermal algae, moisturizing malva, crushed olive stones and poppy seeds, toning chestnut extract, and balancing mineral elements.
Summer season — Terme Tettuccio — Tel: 39 0572 778501
Summer season — Terme La Salute — Tel: 39 0572 778571
Winter season — Terme Excelsior — Tel: 39 0572 778511
Hours open vary.
Contact all Termes:
Terme di Montecatini S.p.A
Viale Verdi 41
Pistola, Tuscany, Italy
Tel: 39 0572 77781
Fax: 39 0572 778444
Click the flags for other languages on their website.
Montecatini Terme is not classified as a Tuscan hill town, but the medieval fortified Montecatini Alto looming above the village is a thriving hill town. One warm afternoon I climbed aboard one of the world's oldest funiculars — with the emphasis on fun. The family-owned funicular opened in 1898, and the two coaches, named Gigio and Gioria,brought giggles to the passengers as we rose over 1,000 meters at a 38.9% slant.
Montecatini Alto encomasses castles and churches.
Montecatini Alto sits at 290 meters from the thermal town with stunning views of the entire valley, called Valdimievale. There is also an old path for hikers and mountain bikers. In fact, mountain biking is a fast growing sport in the area and Terme Redi had a bicycling riding test for posture analysis. I presume the spa also analyzes golf swings for players on the town's two courses.
During the Food&Book fair I attended a medieval feast in a former church on Montecatini Alto. In the middle ages internecine wars between Venice and other city states involved the hill town fort called the Tramontana Castle, that included the Church of St. Peter. The complex is called The Rock of the Old Castle. The Rock of the New Castle included the Bell Tower and the Church of Carmine because they were built in a later era.
The fun way to the hill top town.
When you get off the funicular and hike to the first street the old town is to your left; I turned right for a nice hike around the ancient walls with vistas of the valley, but this circuit leads eventually back to the old town square and the Teatro dei Risorti and the quaint shops along small cobblestone alleys. There are plenty of dining options and gelato stops in the town square. Many of the stone homes date back centuries.
Artistic richness in the Terme Tettuccio.
Montecatini is not only a lovely and fun place to visit, but a healthy one, and a cultured one. In October the Montecatini International Short Film Festival (MISFF) is held in the town square; there numerous music and food festivals in the summer.
With one more hot mud pack treatment and macho mud facial with a combo Cocoa, Cinnamon and Vanilla Massage, I should be singing like Caruso.
— Feature by Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine; photos by the author and courtesy of Terme Redi.