After recently exploring Rome and Lake Garda, letting the true romanticism and culture of Italy wash over us, my girlfriend and I found ourselves looking to discover Tuscany for our next mini break. We knew very little about the region beforehand, so it came as a fortunate surprise that we managed to uncover the hidden gem that is Montecatini Terme. Sitting in the heart of the Pistoia region in the Tuscan countryside, Montecatini Terme is a charming and picturesque little town with lots of cultural heritage built around its mineral water springs.
After an early morning June flight into Pisa, the second leg of the journey consisted of a train ride into Montecatini Terme that lasted just over an hour. Once we arrived we were grateful to find the station only a few minutes’ walk into the town centre and our place of accommodation. We stayed at The Boston Hotel, which lived up to its four stars rating with its cleanliness, helpful staff, delicious food, and rooftop pool, which boasted a glorious panoramic view of the town.
One of the best things to do in Montecatini Terme is to visit Montecatini Alto, the original medieval settlement of the inhabitants located a few hundred feet above the ‘new’ town. It’s accessible by road, but the more interesting mode of transport to take is by the traditional Funicular, which dates back to 1898. The views during the climb and from all areas at the top are simply stunning as the hills of Tuscany are presented as a green tidal wave, meandering and stretching as far as the eyes can see.
Once the view had been fully appreciated we made our way through the cobbled walkways within Montecatini Alto towards the charming Piazza Giusti, where a plethora of authentic restaurants housing the finest Italian cuisine are situated. It’s here where we could relax beneath the Tuscan sun and soak in the Italian way of life whilst enjoying a refreshing Aperol Spritz, a Prosecco based cocktail that has swept its way throughout Italy.
As well as The Piazza Giusti there’s plenty of sights to visit within this tiny hill top village; the walls, the fortress, the medieval towers and the church all provide gratification for those with an aptitude for history and culture.
Besides the rustic prosperity of Montecatini Alto, the nearby quaint park (Parco delle Terme) was another way for us to enjoy life at its most gracious and leisurely pace within a gentle environment surrounded by nature’s stillness and scenic wonders. The Montecatini Thermal Baths are situated on the East side of the park and are very impressive with marble architecture, stuccoes, and frescoes that resemble the ancient Roman baths. The water in Montecatini Terme is known for its therapeutic and healing properties, and the buildings and surrounding peaceful gardens pay homage to the sacred nature of this natural resource. It doesn’t cost much to enter and was well worth spending an hour or so to absorb the origins of Montecatini Terme.
The crossover in pictorial rural landscape merged with a chic cosmopolitan like atmosphere, with many fashion outlets, restaurants and bars along the main streets, brings together various aspects of Italian culture, and to find both ends of the spectrum in such a small town is quite a rare treat.
The friendliness of people within the organised travel groups we met was a joy, especially amongst the senior members, whose company we enjoyed on several occasions throughout the trip, sharing bottles of crisp Italian wine and original Nastro Azzurro (Peroni) beer in some of the welcoming bars within the town.
The patisseries are particularly exquisite too, and it was an absolute necessity for us to sample a variety of the flavoursome Italian ice-creams, cakes or pastries on offer, although our waist lines would surely disagree.
Located approximately an hour from Pisa and Florence, with several points of interest in between such as the town of Lucca, Montecatini Terme is the perfect place to set up base whilst exploring the spectacular region of Tuscany, as well as the delights of the town itself. Once we were able to inhale the culture, the initial research conducted beforehand didn’t do justice to the reality of the experience, completely exceeding our expectations. Montecatini Terme is a real find in the middle of one of the most famous regions of Italy.