When we are in Tuscany we always stay in Lucca. It feels like our home but it is also a great location for tons of day trips. This year we wanted to show our friends Montecatini Alto, one of our favorite little cities. So we caught a train from Lucca, about a 35-minute ride to spend our day sightseeing in Montecatini. We used to drive to Montecatini so this was our first train ride. It was so easy. We got off of the train at the Montecatini Centro Station to begin our sightseeing in Montecatini. It was our first time in Montecatini Terme and we were completely taken by surprise.
Our plans had been to walk through town to catch the funicular up to Montecatini Alto. So we got off the train and started walking straight up the main road but were quickly distracted by the incredible Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings lining the street. With beautiful green spaces, a swan fountain and stunning stained glass rotunda on one of the buildings in the park I was instantly in love. Across the street is the City Hall, a very majestic building from the outside, but inside even more impressive with frescoed ceilings, beautiful stained glass skylights, an incredible iron staircase and art exhibit featuring some Miro work. As my senses were in overload, I really was in shock that I had missed this town before with such a treasure of different architecture.
As we continued our walk to the funicular another incredible Art Deco building with dramatic overhangs, and carved men mixed in with murals on the walls was spotted on the left hand side of the road. It stands alone after the park just demanding one to stop and study it. (And of course check out the great shops inside.) The contrast to the normal Italian stone and plaster architecture was really stunning. Walking along, after making a nice purchase from this Uashmama, we couldn’t help but admire all of the green space in Montecatini Terme. It looks like mini forests on either side of the road.
Then, we spotted another big surprise, this very grand looking building stood at the end of the road. With its massive pillars and large scale the building looked like a grand old palace. In fact it is a gorgeous thermal bath where visitors can relax in the pools, and saunas, have lunch and in the evenings attend a concert. The facility is absolutely gorgeous, open aired with murals on the ceilings and incredible marble works. It is definitely on my list to return here and get lost for the day in old world Italian luxury.
Now that we had all been wowed, and literally come to the end of the road it was time to catch the funicular up to Montecatini Alto for a more typical Italian town and a great lunch. As you know where there is a funicular J. must ride it. Since this one felt like the one that got away he was pretty excited. The views from the cars was beautiful- you know, your typical rolling green hills, gorgeous Tuscan homes, beautiful olive trees and stunning Italian villages were as far as the eye could see. When you spend time in Tuscany it is immediately obvious why it claims such a special place in people’s hearts.
Montecatini Alto is a very small village. Walking into the main square we passed by old stone and plaster houses which look straight out of a movie set, gorgeous oranges, yellows, browns and greys with terra cotta roofs against the bright blue Tuscan Sun. The smell of garlic guided the way to the square where about eight restaurants, with tables and umbrellas filling the square, to choose from. We have one which we are partial to so we took our seats, ordered wine and food and then sat back to relax and take in the buildings, the people and the calmness of this quaint city.
The only thing to really do in Montecatini Alto, aside from eat and have coffee is to walk through the town. There are incredible views of the surrounding countryside, a lovely little church, and really picturesque houses and old buildings. There are cats lounging in the windows, kids running down the streets and local gardens all along the way. It is a wonderful way to get lost in what Italy really is, away from the cities, the tour buses and the souvenir shops.
As always happens when I leave Montecatini Alto a little piece of my heart stays there until next time.