The picturesque town of Montecatini was originally settled by the Romans, who built a castle here to maximise its advantageous position overlooking the valley. Much of the town soon grew around these fortifications. For a small, quiet town, Montecatini went through a relatively turbulent period in its history during the Middle Ages. At this time, the warring factions of nearby Florence and Siena were trying to gain control of the wider area, and saw Montecatini as a vital stronghold.
This came to a head in the late 15th century, when the previously impregnable fortress and a small part of the town were razed to the ground during one of the final power struggles. It was a short while after this that spa waters were discovered in the town. In 1530 Montecatini's very first baths opened, and before long people were proclaiming the spa waters' healing properties. In later years the town developed primarily as a spa town, and it expanded down the hillside as a result.
By the early years of the 20th century Montecatini was regularly hosting many of Italy's most rich and famous people, and since that time it has been the country's largest spa town. Today Montecatini has a number of attractions that reward exploration. These include Montecatini Alto, the oldest part of the town at the top of the hill. There are many delightful buildings dotted along the narrow streets here, together with a choice of pretty pavement cafés and a charming church. Montecatini Alto is connected with the lower part of the town by a funicular railway, which runs late into the evening and offers wonderful views over the valley. Of course another major attraction of Montecatini is its famous spas. These include Terme Leopoldine, which is in the style of a classical temple, the Terme Tettucio with its marble-lined pools, fountains and Art Nouveau tiles, and Terme Tamerici, which has beautifully tended gardens.