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Towns of the area

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Montecatini Terme

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Inhabitants in 1991: 20.653

The municipal territory of Montecatini extends in the plains and hills for 17,66 square kilometres in the medium Valdinievole. Feudal centre then municipality, it reached its present day aspect in 1940 after numerous profound modifications: raised into community with the Leopoldini decrees in 1775 with the name of Montecatini Val di Nievole, in 1905 the districts of Bagni and Pieve a Nievole were detached from it and constituted in autonomous municipalities. In 1934 two districts were added to Bagni de Montecatini, which from 1928 had changed its name to Montecatini Terme, and finally in 1940 the municipality of Montecatini Val di Nievole was suppressed and aggregated part in Montecatini Terme and part in Pieve a Nievole.

The oldest centre of the territory is the town of Montecatini Alto, perhaps of Roman origin (the area was crossed by the Via Cassia which from Firenze across Pistoia joined it to Lucca), but it was certainly documented after the year one thousand as a castle of the Maona Counts, who were Guelfi Pro-Lucca. Contested now by Pistoia now by Lucca whose Episcopate owned part of the castle from 1079, it became the most important military centre in the valley, thanks also to its fortification position, dominating from the hills, Montecatini in 1177 took part alongside Lucca in the war which they fought against Pistoia. Already constituted in municipality during the 1200s after bitter contests with the bordering centres and with the Guelfi defeat at Montaperti it was subjugated with all the Valdinievole to the authority of an Imperial Vicariate until 1271 when Lucca took possession. In 1315 Montecatini, having spent two years under the Fiorentino dominion, was besieged and won by the Ghibelline forces of Uguccione della Faggiola, but in 1328 its adherence to the League of the Valdinievole communities and the consequential submission to Firenze provoked revolts in the Castrucciana camp who reconsigned the castle to Lucca. The Fiorentini retaliated and after a new long siege managed to conquer it in July 1330, when seemingly they went back on their decision to raze it to the ground only for the memory of the welcome given to the Guelfi Fiorentini exiled in 1263: from then on Montecatini remained faithful subjects of Firenze, becoming Seat of a Podesta office which in 1430 was united to that of Buggiano. In 1554, while Firenze was busy with the war with Siena Montecatini was occupied by the French troops and the anti Mediceo rebel Piero Strozzi; reconquered the following year by Costimo I it was punished with the destruction of the walls. The present day centre of Montecatini Terme had its origins only in the end of the 1700s on the plains drained by Pietro Leopoldo. Among its citizens one remembers Ugolino da Montecatini (1348-1425) illustrious Doctor.

Montecatini is the main town in the Val di Nievole, and is divided into Montecatini Terme and Montecatini Alta. Surrounded by green hills, there are also many green areas in the town itself. It has the appearance and exudes the atmosphere of the early 20th century, signs of which are clearly visible in the architecture of the hotels and thermal baths.
It's known for its thermal springs, the benefits of which (particularly on the liver) have been known about since the 1300s. The springs were owned first by the Medici and then by the House of Lorraine. In fact, it was Leopold I who first began to exploit them in the second half of the 18th century, setting in motion the development of the current town.
Montecatini became well-known in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, and much of the building work took place in this period; private houses, large hotels, theatres, and casinos sprang up, some in an Art Nouveau style and others in an extremely eclectic one. Even the post-war building work which replaced some of the less significant constructions have not destroyed the early 20th century atmosphere of Montecatini. The preservation of this atmosphere is perhaps due to the cultural initiatives and the high society aura that careful local government management has managed to generate.

Places to visit:
Piazza del Popolo, large space opened in the second half of the 1700s.
Museum and Academy of Art “D.Scalabrino”, where there is a collection of more than two hundred works of diverse artists, mostly from the 1900.
Viale Verdi, it is the main town street and goes back to 1778. The contemporary Palazzina Regia built to the order of Pietro Leopoldo faces onto it, The Palazzo Comunale in 1918 inspired by the Fiorentini Palaces of the 1500s. has internally a staircase spendidly decorated by Galileo Chini.
Terme Leopoldine, from 1777, modified around 1925.
Excelsior Establishment, from 1915, has a Neo-Renaissance form. It was enlarged in 1968.
Tamerici Establishment, decorated with many coloured majolica and glass by Galileo Chini.
Montecatini Alto, connected to Montecatini Terme with a funicular railway from 1897, it is a village documented before the year one thousand. Traces of the walls and a medieval stone tower remain.

Historical info reproduced upon authorization of Regione Toscana - Dipartimento della Presidenza E Affari Legislativi e Giuridici
Translated by Ann Mountford

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