Thursday, January 25, 2007

Montecatini Terme

Came across this great 20-year-old article on Montecatini Terme, where I lived in Italy last year.

July 20, 1986

Situated in Tuscany's Val di Nievole, Montecatini is an experience in reverse time - a Henry James novel with a Fellini-esque edge. The town and its spas combine intrigue and activity; here the cure lies not only in the thermal waters, but in the environment as well. Ubiquitous music, endless boutiques, rainbow gelato stands, garish night auctions, crowded street markets and menus that feature 21 pastas and 25 desserts help to persuade that here is a potential slice of heaven on earth - a melange of Tuscan cuisine and culture; a legendary spa, with a lingering air of Dolce Vita.

What makes Montecatini different from other spas is the diversity of its therapeutic waters. The benefits of the waters have been known since the Etruscans settled in the area during the eighth century B.C. The Tettuccio Terme dates back to the 14th century. However, it was not until after World War II that Montecatini and its Grand Hotel e La Pace had its first modern renaissance. From 1955 to 1965 it was an international playground. The waters drew movie stars, soldiers and sheiks, including Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn and Prince Rainier. Recent guests have been Stephanie Powers, Robert Wagner and a sheik who arrived with an entourage of 40 wives, dozens of servants and armed guards.

It still puzzles long-term hoteliers here just what it was that originally attracted the celebrities of the 60's and what, a decade later, made them leave. The challenge now is to maintain Montecatini, prove that its popularity was not just a passing fancy, but an enduring experience, and to lure American tourists, as well as the rich and famous.

The origin of the Montecatini waters, which still entice 150,000 visitors annually, has always been a source of interest. Since 1931, the subject has been treated in more than 700 scholarly papers. What is known is that the waters come from deep within the earth, gushing up to the surface at a temperature of 75 to 95 degrees, and getting richer and richer in salts. As the water is filtered through the subsoil, it is cleansed of bacteria and noxious impurities. Nine underground springs supply the Montecatini baths, each supposedly with different curative functions.

Read the entire article here.

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