Saturday, March 31, 2018

Nice day in Montecatini Terme

The next city on the train from Pistoia towards Lucca is Montecatini Terme, a spa town.  We wanted to check it out.  We learned that the official season goes from May through October.  The tip we got is that Italians like to go in September, otherwise it is quiet during the week even during the season. 

There are about nine termes (thermal baths) that offer a plethora of treatments, one is open year round.  Judging by the state of some of them, I don't see how they'll be all open by May.  There are a few hundred hotels of different comfort levels.  I estimate maybe a quarter of them were open.  We had considered basing ourselves in Montecatini because of attractive hotel rates.  In fact, we talked to an American whose tour is based here, going to Florence, Siena, Pisa, Lucca, San Gimignano, etc. during the day!

We had our first warm-ish day, enjoyed looking for Art Nouveau buildings around town, and walked to Montecatini Alto, the upper medieval town.  In the end, we didn't walk as much as we had planned, we dawdled in the nice weather instead of marching.

It's going to be a beautiful day as we wait at the Pistoia Train Station for our train west (about 15 mins) to Montecatini Terme.
Waiting for the train to Montecatini Terme at the Pistoia Station - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini has over 100 hotels and spas, plus 9 thermal baths.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

We hit the very helpful and friendly TI and get a small booklet of all the Liberty (Art Nouveau) buildings in Tuscany. Wow! Perfect as there are 20 in Montecatini. Some are hotels, some are termes (thermal baths). Let's get started, beginning at the town square.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

This small pavilion with bas reliefs caught our eye.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Terme Excelsior.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Terme Tettuccio can be "toured"; but in March (out of season) only on weekends. Bummer. It's splendid. It opens for "bathing" in May.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Terme and Hotel Torretta is under repair.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

The termes are connected to each other and city center by several long tree-lined boulevards and parks. Perfect for strolling.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

There is a funicular that connects Montecatini Terme with Montecatini Alto. We decide to walk up on a trail that parallels the tracks.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

We can see Montecatini Alto above us.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Here comes the funicular.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

The walk up is on a recently graded dirt road with good signage.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Great views from the top.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

From the southern end of Monte Alto there is a view towards the Fucecchio Wetlands which we'll have to visit on our next trip to Italy.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

And a view to the nearby town of Monsummano Terme. There is a comfortable bench at this viewpoint. We soak up the view and the sun and can hardly tear ourselves away.
View from Montecatini Alto, Tuscany, Italy

And a view west - a splendid panorama. It's hazy today.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

And looking back to Monte Alto city center where it's lunch time in the Piazza.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

The old cinema.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

The church interior.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Walking back down, we take a trail that starts a the nearby Convent.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

The trail heads down among olive groves and grass, and soon becomes a stone road.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme, Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme, Tuscany, Italy

Back in town we check out the City Hall interior.
Montecatini Terme, Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme, Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

And the Terme Administration building.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

And the Grand Hotel.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Hmmmm.
Montecatini Terme - Tuscany, Italy

Thursday, March 29, 2018

At home in Pistoia

Before this trip we had never heard of Pistoia, couldn't even find it in our Lonely Planet Italy book.  It is right on the train line between Florence and Lucca.  We made it our home base for exploring Northern Tuscany and it was a good pick. 

The way John puts it - there are two Italies, the First Italy where tourists outnumber Italians, the Second where Italians outnumber tourists.  Pistoia is a very good example of the Second Italy.  The historic center is mostly pedestrian, a steady stream of locals going to and fro on their quotidian routes.

To get from Volterra to Pistoia, we take a bus to Pontedera, then a train to Florence, then a train to Pistoia. Here is shot from Firenze Rifredi Station, the closest we will get to Florence (First Italy) on this trip.
Firenza Station

Our first impressions of Pistoia are the Fiat 500 Club meeting, the stairwell railing in our apartment building, and the bike lane on the way to the Esselunga Supermarket.
Fiat 500 Club Italia - Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

The Presto Speza guns at the supermarket were very cool. You use the guns to scan/buy items directly into your digital cart. There are random "re-reading the cart" checks when you pay. Pretty cool. Note that we did NOT use the guns. Maybe I'll see this at Harris Teeter when we get back to Raleigh. ;-)
Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

The streets are lively in the evenings between 5 and 7pm.
Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

It's the Saturday evening before Palm Sunday. There's an informal procession to the Duomo and then a Mass to bless olive branches.
Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

Our apartment is those three windows on the top floor.
Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

Every evening we head out for the passeggiata.
Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

And check out churches that may be open.
Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

It seems we always end up passing the Duomo and its baptistry and campanile.
Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

City Hall is adjacent to the Duomo
Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

Pistoia is also home of the La Visitazione by Luca della Robbia. Sublime. Now displayed in a deconsecrated church.
Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

And there are three 13th century carved pulpits. Here's one.
Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

And this 16th century terracotta frieze.
Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

Pistoia was a prosperous town in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, so in addition to the Medieval and Renaissance art, there are more than several Art Nouveau buildings like this galeria.
Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

And lamp posts.
Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

And this abandoned factory facade.
Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

And more.
Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy

Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy




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