Using Lucca as a base for three weeks has allowed us to slow down the pace and get immersed in the clam Tuscan way of life. Mornings are long and relaxed drinking coffee and strolling around the city discovering hidden bastions and kiddy parks. Afternoons are spent perusing the local grocer’s fresh ingredients for homecooked dishes or sampling famed gelato.
Recharged and ready for adventure we’ve plotted an itinerary for day trips to nearby towns. Lucca is centrally located with great train connections throughout Tuscany providing plenty of exploration options.
This morning we had grand plans to visit Cinque Terre located only 1.5 hours from Lucca on the 8am train. However, our naughty night monster, Eleanor had other ideas waking us up every 90 minutes through the night so we opted for an adventure closer to home and headed to Montecatini Terme instead.
Montecatini Terme is just over 30 mins by a train from Lucca, best known for its thermal spas and the Funicular (train). Montecatini is made up of two main areas, Montecatini Terme where the thermal spa is located at the foot of the hill and the hilltop town of Montecatini Alto. The regular train will bring you as far as Montecatini Terme and the Funicular railway, located 15 minutes by foot will take you up to explore the hilltop town of Montecatini Alto. Or, if you’re fit and brave you can choose to hike to the top. But be warned it’s steep and not at all baby friendly.
Once at the top, Montecatini Alto is a nice stroll around. The ancient city is perched on two hills, joined in the middle by the town square where you can find some nice restaurants and shops. In between the old city walls, fortress, churches and towers you’ll see views for days over the “new” town and beyond. If you choose to bring a stroller be prepared to push it on rough terrain up steep hills (babycarrier FTW). Our trusty Ergobaby 360 carrier is worth its weight in gold for these types of towns, we don’t even bother with the pram anymore.
After our walk around the old city we stopped off for a quick Espresso before heading back down on the Funicular. It’s a pretty view of Tuscany from the top but we there wasn’t all that much to see or do in Montecatini Alto.
Montectini at the foot of the hill seemed to be a more happening city, filled with designer shops, restaurants and cafes.
We bee-lined straight for ‘the must’ see attraction, the Montecatini thermal Spa to sip on ‘healing thermal water’. The grounds of Termi di Montecatini originally built the 15th century (and later updated 1777 and again in 1919) are worth the visit if the healing properties in the water aren’t enough to lure you in.
The grand buildings surrounded by parkland are decorated with elaborate architectural columns and travertine courtyards with stunning fountains and pristine gardens. The interior of the spa was decorated by artists of the early twentieth such as Galileo Chini, Basilio Cascella, Giuseppe Moroni and Sirio Tofanari. The most photographed feature of the Termi is the large open air fountain by the entrance.
The thermal spa is great for people watching. The number of elderly people drinking from ‘the fountain of youth’ was astounding. We couldn’t believe how many busloads of beautiful old Nonnos and Nonnas funneled through the doors. At one point we thought there must be an aged convention going on at the spa.
Eleanor once again stole the show, waving and smiling at the crowds before being passed around the Nonna’s while we tried to understand what they were asking us in Italian. No matter how many times we said “Inglese” (English), they just spoke in slower Italian.