Monsummano Terme is in northern Tuscany, in the province of Pistoia, halfway between Florence and Lucca, at the foot of Monsummano Alto hill that, with its fortress and mighty walls dominates the lower city that dates back to the Seventeenth century. In 1602, following the miracles of a Virgin, represented in an ancient tabernacle, the Grand Duke Ferdinando I commissioned the construction of a sanctuary on the lands previously reclaimed to Gherardo Mechini, the grand- ducal architect. He designed a Latin cross monumental church and a square able to host large crowds on which he also built the “Osteria dei Pellegrini”, today seat of the “Museo della Città e delTerritorio” (Town and Territory Museum). In the XIX century, the city lived an important period due to the presence of two personalities of the political and literary world: the poet Giuseppe Giusti, whose native house is today transformed into a Museum, and Ferdinando Martini, literate and politician, whose last residence, Villa Renatico-Martini, today is seat of the “Museo di Arte Contemporanea e del Novecento” (Contemporary and Twentieth Century Art Museum). Other show-pieces of the city are the discovery of Grotta Giusti that dates back to the mid XIX century: unique natural grottos, today supported by modern thermal bath establishments and a large outdoor thermal swimming pool, and the recent refurbishment of the Theatre named after another famous fellow-citizen Ivo Livi, better known as Yves Montand.
Founded in 1602, at behest of the Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici, the basilica is surrounded on three sides by a large portico frescoed by Giovanni Mannozzi, with fourteen lunettes that portray some of the Virgin’s miracles. From the arcade it is possible to access, through a staircase, a wide underground staircase, where five fountains distribute the water of the miraculous spring. The construction works of the Crypt started on 9 June 1962 , in the area opposite the Sanctuary, where the water that rose after the facts occurred in 1602 still flows. Inaugurated and blessed in August 1963, the crypt also hosts a pool for the immersion of the sick, for which a prayer is said on the 7thof every month at 11:50 a.m. The Sanctuary’s high altar is characterised by the ancient tabernacle depicting the Virgin surrounded by four Saints; tabernacle partially covered, in the Seventeenth century, by a silver leaf containing ex-voto. A small museum with precious jewels, shrines, and liturgical vestments is inside the Sanctuary. The entrance portal is beautiful, carved by the woodcutter Giovanni Desideri from Pistoia, also author of the wood ceiling, which is a real casket full of art treasures in which are set the paintings of the Marian Trilogy: the Annunciation by Matteo Rosselli, the Assumption by Gregorio Pagani and Matteo Rosselli, and the Coronation by Donato Mascagni realised between 1603 and 1619. Paintings by Matteo Rosselli and Cristofano Allori decorate the walls and, in the opposite altar there are paintings by Giovanni Mannozzi da San Giovanni. Noteworthy is the organ realised from 1608 to 1614 by Francesco di Niccolò Palmieri.
A place of great historical-cultural and naturalistic importance; located at the western margin of Montalbano area, it rises with its truncated conical shape about 350 m above sea level. Inhabited in the early Middle Ages, it was a “castrum” fortified military camp, documented already in 1005, which after various events was subjected to Florentine signoria.
Today, of the ancient castle on the hill are preserved only the remains of the elliptical walls that surrounded the castle with a perimeter of about two kilometres and two of the three access doors: the north-western “Nostra Donna” door, and the one called “del Mercato” or “Porticciola” that, practically intact, faces the hill of Montevettolini. Of the numerous towers that equipped the castle remains, at the western extremity of the walls, a sturdy pentagonal tower, which is among the most impressive of the entire provfince. The best preserved building of the hamlet is the Church of San Nicolao.
It is located inside the ancient walls of Monsummano Alto hamlet. Through a staircase you access the central entrance portal, framed by remarkable door-jambs and architrave, on which is positioned the lunette lancet arch. At the top, just below the pitched roof, a small central oculus opens. Also the inside is extremely simple, there is the altar that dates back to 1674, inserted in the apse and surmounted by a precious wooden Crucifix datable between the late XIV and early XV century and two typical Seventeenth century stone altars with gabled aedicule, next to the lateral walls. At the right of the facade there is a bell tower that has a passageway with vault covering at the base.
The excavations carried out between 1985-86 brought to light the foundations of two ancient houses and some polychrome kitchen tableware fragments.
Montevettolini rises on a hill with olive trees at 187 metres above sea level. It was also founded as “castrum” around the XII century and preserves many traces of its ancient aspect. According to tradition in the early period it could have been called “Montescuffione” or “Montescuffioni”, maybe because of the coif on the coat of arms. The current name probably derives from Vitula, the Roman goddess of mirth or life, or from the cultivation of vines. Over the decades the complex historical events that characterised Valdinievole lead Montevettolini to be first subjected to Pistoia, then Lucca and lastly, in the XIV century to Florence. The Florentine Gran Dukes elected Montevettolini hunting ground.Therefore the MediceanVilla, built on a previous ancient fortress, and many other patrician residences were constructed. In 1775, Pietro Leopoldo, with the creation of “La Comunità delle due Terre” (the Community of the two Lands), united the territories of Montevettolini and Monsummano, in a sole town “La Comunità delle due Terre di Valdinievole” today Monsummano Terme. Evidences of the medieval period are: the Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall), and the Pieve di San Michele (Parish church of San Michele) of the XII century, it was transformed many times until reaching its current aspect in the Eighteenth century. Moreover, particularly fascinating is the octagonal tower, called “Sprone” or “Murina” and the door of the Vicino or Malvicino, perfectly preserved as the door of the Cantone that became part of the Medicean Villa.
Church of San Michele Arcangelo and Lorenzo MartireWhere the town church rises there is a chapel dedicated to San Michele, belonging to the parish church of San Giovanni Battista and San Lorenzo a Vaiano built in the XII century. Over the centuries it was enlarged with the addition of the two aisles and external portico. It became parish church after the abolition of the parish of Vaiano in 1449, when it was also consecrated to San Lorenzo. The current aspect of the church is owed to the refurbishment work started in 1733 by Vittorio Anastagi, when the ecclesiastic building was elevated and vault covered. Inside there is a high altar in polychrome marbles by Bartolomeo Moisé da Seravezza, while the walls were enriched with stucco decorations and frescoes by Felice Balsan that date back to 1740. The Church preserves numerous works of art among which the Madonna con Bambino (Madonna with Child), work of the Scuola di Raffaellino del Garbo, a Madonna con Bambino e Santi (Madonna with Child and Saints) by Piero di Cosimo, the Vergine Assunta e Santi by Santi di Tito, and works attributed to Jacopo Chimenti (l’Empoli) apart from a large wooden Crucifix of the XIV century, protagonist of a popular devotionalevent“ Festa Grossa”, that reaches its climax on Good Friday with the costume recollection of the Passion of Christ.
Medicean VillaIt was built at the end of the XVI century by Gherardo Mechini and Domenico Marcacci at behest of Ferdinando I, to be used as hunting lodge. The Villa includes the ancient fortress datable between the XII-XIII century on one side and the tower standing over the Porta del Cantone on the other. Reportedly, the ancient fortress had the same height as the Belltower and dimensions that allowed the presence of a keep, small tower where the sentries were and last shelter in case of siege. Currently it is private property. Visible only from the external.
THERMAL BATH AND WELLNESS
Monsummano Terme offers unique thermal caves of special therapeutic properties: natural hot caves, supported by modern thermal bath systems.
The Grotto“The eighth wonder of the world”, as Giuseppe Verdi defined it during his visits, the Giusti Grotto is at the first place among the European thermal grottos; its warm and humid microclimate remains unaltered compared to the external temperatures. As you proceed from the entrance to the deepest part of the Grotto, you go through three areas that become warmer and warmer; these areas are traditionally called Paradise, Purgatory, and Inferno. A picturesque small lake is in the Limbo and its water has a constant temperature of about 36°C. “Grotta Giusti Natural spa Resort” is located inside a 45 hectare century-old park, an environment of incomparable beauty natural. The Hotel retains all its historic flavour, and hosts its clients in a marvellous 19th century villa with frescoed rooms valorised by period furniture and paintings. The Wellness Centre has large sections fortraditional thermal treatments: mud baths, inhalation treatments, ozone baths, and a modern Spa with oriental area, equipped gym, numerous relaxing areas, and a cosmetic medicine centre. The structure is completed by the outdoor 750 sq m Thermal Swimming Pool, hydromassage, waterfalls,and the natural Grotto with its salinesulphate-alkaline-earth thermal mineral waters, which generate a real depurating and detoxifying thermal steam bath. Around the swimming pool, there is the new “Bioacquam Cafè” where you can relax. In July and August, every Friday and Saturday the thermal swimming pool is open also in the evening from 08.30 p.m. to midnight, for a bath under the stars with pleasant soft drinks and delicious spa menus. Inside the complex, there is an elegant, large bar with solarium, where it is possible to organise theme parties, cocktails, spa parties, taste the most important national wines, but also where you can find a selection of slimming and depurative herbal infusions, and light cocktails realised by the barman of the Hotel, the world champion Andrea Balleri. In addition, there is a new indoor relaxing area, where you can read a book, and listen to new age music of oriental influence, under a starry ceiling that changes colour facilitating meditation. Both the Wellness Centre and the Hotel are open all year round.
The ancient pathsWalking along the ancient paths that connect the castles of Valdinievole with the ones of Montalbano, surrounded by a wonderful landscape. Here you can find woods with oak, chestnut, pine, and cypress trees, and large olive-yards and vineyards that are the typical crops of the area.The geological pathThe natural characteristics of Colle di Monsummano Alto can be admired walking along the geological Path, which starts in front of the thermal baths of Grotta Giusti and leads to a cross-roadat the limit of the woods, where you will find two paths the one on the right leads to the surface of the great fault, while the one on the left leads, through a natural passage way, to the Cava Rossa (Red Cave), name that derives from the iron deposits that cover its walls. After 800 m, you will reach Vergine di Monsummano Alto, and from here, following the street or the ancient paths, also the Castle of Monsummano Alto.Natural reserve of Padule di FucecchioAmong its structures, there are also two faunal observatories. Through some of its itineraries, you can move alone, while in the protected areas, indicated by signs, the entrance is allowed only with qualified guide. Before starting any type of tour through the natural reserve, we advice to visit the “Museo della Città e del Territorio” (Town and Territory Museum) and “Centro di Ricerca, Documentazione, Promozione del Padule di Fucecchio” (Research, Documentation, and Promotion centre of Padule di Fucecchio), where a complete documentation on wetland is kept.