Bagni di Lucca "land of princes and poets", as it was called in the 18th century, lies along a narrow valley called Val di Lima. Throughout the ages the town has extended all along the bank of torrent Lima (about 2 km long), creating three different villages: Bagni alla Villa (the central area, also known as Villa), Ponte a Serraglio (the Casino area, called Ponte) and Bagni Caldi (where to find the thermal baths).

The village can boast very ancient origins: the first settlement rose onto the hilltop of Corsena, all around the church of St Pietro (the suffix –ena remind us the Etruscan origin) and conquered by the Romans around 180 BC.

The whole of Tuscany is spotted by volcanic sulphur springs, like the lovely baths in Bagni di Lucca. As you can easily guess, the Romans first discovered the thermal baths and built marvelous spas to please the veterans who retreated from cities like Florence and Siena. Numerous brand-new spas dated back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, highly recommended to cure diseases, like arthritis. The Tuscan thermal baths reached their maximum splendour at the beginning of the 18th century, when the famous spa in Lucca was frequented by important people coming from everywhere in Europe. The tourists used to be attracted by the beauty of those natural paradises as well as the casino, one of the first in Europe (1837).

Napoleon and Elisa Baiocchi, from 1805 to 1847, restored some ancient Roman spas using 19 thermal springs. Napoleon's staff and his sister used this as a summer residence and called it the Italian Switzerland, and Europeans flocked to the luxury offered. Then in 1814, Duke Leopold Lorena took control and in 1853 closed the casino, and the town languished.

Under the Grand-duchy of Tuscany, thanks to a huge improvement of the local hotel trade, besides many Italian nobles, a lovely English community settled in Bagni di Lucca.

Over the years many known artists and poets used this as a refuge and to relax. Some famous names: Byron, Lever, Shelley, the popes Sistus IV e Sistus V, the Queen Margherita, Pascoli, Dumas, Strauss, Listz, Paganini, Carducci, Puccini, Mascagni and Rosa Marie Cleveland, Stephen Grover Cleveland 22nd president of the United States (who stayed and died there. She is currently buried into the local English cemetery).

The baths worth a visit indeed! Once there do not miss to the gorgeous caves: experiencing temperatures that fluctuate between 40 and 47 °C. The smaller and more striking of the two, known as Grotta Paolina (named after Napoleon’s sister, Pauline), consists of two chambers. They are fed by separate water sources with differing temperatures that vary according to depth, so the water is hotter at the trunk level of the body than at the feet.

The calcium-bicarbonate-sulphate springs in the caves are believed to have healing properties for rheumatic or stress-related disorders. One folk legend would have it that the thermal activity in the area is caused by a volcano situated under the village of Bagni Caldi and nearby Ponte a Serraglio.

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