Montecatini thermal baths are in the running to become a World Heritage Site

Montecatini's thermal baths are vying to become part of the World Heritage Site, in an international site with ten other European cities. Unesco will make a decision at the end of July.

The Montecatini Thermal Baths in Tuscany could be the next Italian site to become part of the World Heritage List: it will all depend on what is decided during the 44th session of the Intergovernmental World Heritage Committee to be held in Fuzhou, China, July 16-31. Montecatini Spa is part of an international heritage site, The Great Spas of Europe, which includes eleven European spas from seven different nations: Baden bei Wien (Austria); Spa (Belgium); the “Bohemian Triangle” consisting of Karlovy Vary, Františkovy LáznÄ› and Mariánské LáznÄ› (Czech Republic); Vichy (France); Bad Ems, Baden-Baden and Bad Kissingen (Germany); Montecatini Terme (Italy); and Bath (United Kingdom).

“Each of these eleven spa towns,” explains the committee that proposed the nomination, "developed between 1700 and 1930 around natural mineral springs, which acted as catalysts for an innovative model of spatial organization dedicated to therapeutic and social functions. These elegant resorts for treatment, recreation and socialization gave rise to architectural prototypes and urban typologies that have not been matched in previous eras. These spa towns represent the pioneers of the then nascent modern tourism. The act of ’Taking the Cure,’ both externally and internally, was complemented by the introduction of visitor-facing facilities and by specific infrastructure to support spa activities, all integrated into a larger urban context that includes carefully managed recreational and therapeutic spaces set in a picturesque spa landscape. The Great Spas of Europe marks the greatest developments in the traditional medical uses of springs by Enlightenment physicians throughout Europe, including those at the forefront of Western diagnostic medicine. As a set of elite places at the level of scientific, political, social and cultural achievements, The Great Spas of Europe contributed to the transformation of European society by narrowing the gap between the elite and the emerging middle classes. Spa towns have been the scene of important political events, and their special creative atmosphere has inspired works of exceptional universal significance in the fields of music, literature and painting."

Among the ranks of the Ministry of Culture, which is overseeing the work, optimism is high. “After the positive opinion on Italy’s proposed Unesco candidacy of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua,” Undersecretary Lucia Borgonzoni commented today, “we collect another yes.” The reference is to the assessment ofICOMOS, an advisory body to the World Heritage Committee, which gave a positive opinion on the candidacy. In fact, ICOMOS confirmed that the great European spas represent an outstanding testimony to the phenomenon of European thermalism. The candidacy, according to ICOMOS, highlights the importance and ’exceptional universal value of spa culture and its architecture as a phenomenon of our continent, and was in fact commonly prepared by 7 states part of the European Union.

“The ambitious candidacy of Montecatini, together with other cities,” Borgonzoni further comments, “underlines the exceptional universal value of Italian spa architecture and culture. The proposal is the result of a challenging path made by the Ministry of Culture together with the Municipality of Montecatini Terme, which started already in 2012.”

“As mayor of Montecatini Terme,” says first citizen Luca Baroncini, “I am happy and honored by the positive assessment expressed by ICOMOS also for my city, which clearly shows the potential of the Great Spas of Europe to become a World Heritage Site. The fact that Montecatini Terme is among the 11 European cities is really important and comes to complete a journey that began more than 10 years ago, with an important collaboration between the municipal offices and the Ministry of Culture.”

Pictured: the Tettuccio Spa. Photo Terme di Montecatini SPA

Montecatini thermal baths are in the running to become a World Heritage Site
Montecatini thermal baths are in the running to become a World Heritage Site

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