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All you need to know, from architecture to history and wellness

For a long weekend or a short but memorable holiday, here’s a voyage of discovery in the heart of Tuscany, from Lucca to the thermal baths of nearby Montecatini.

LUCCA

From the outside, the city walls of Lucca – among the best-preserved in Italy – offer an astonishing sight and a truly unusual and relaxing walk; but go inside and you’ll find one of the jewels of Tuscany. Dubbed “city of a hundred churches”, Lucca is home to some genuine masterpieces of religious architecture including, of course, the cathedral, dedicated to San Martino. Other unmissable visits include the captivating visual and olfactory experience of the Botanical Garden, founded in 1820, the views from the Guinigi Tower, and Piazza Anfiteatro, with its highly unusual oval shape. To sample authentic Lucca cuisine, try Buca di Sant’Antonio, and for overnight stays enjoy the hospitality of the Grand Universe in Piazza del Giglio.

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VILLAS AROUND LUCCA

The Lucca countryside is scattered with noble residences of great charm; among the most famous is the 17th century Villa Mansi in Capannori, much loved for its fabulous frescoes by Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, sister of Napoleon and princess of Lucca and Piombino in the 19th century (for information and visits: +39 0583 920234). Not far away, two impressive rows of cypresses almost a kilometre long lead to the theatrical facade of one of Tuscany’s best examples of Baroque architecture, Villa Torrigiani, with a large garden full of monumental ancient plants (for information and visits: +39 0583 928041). For a relaxing stay, it’s just a few kilometres to the classic Grand Hotel & La Pace Spa Montecatini.

MONTECATINI AND MONSUMMANO TERME

As is clear from the names of the main towns, this area was valued for its beneficial thermal waters way back in Roman times. But it was only the 18th century, with the work ordered by Grand Duke Leopoldo II, that saw the rise of modern Montecatini, with its celebrated thermal baths, among the best-known in Italy. It’s no accident that close by – in Monsummano Terme – we find the recently restyled Grotta Giusti Thermal Spa Resort, which has won the Oscar of wellness for the fifth time in a row, taking first prize as the World’s Best Thermal Grotto at the World Spa Awards 2021. Its thermal cave is the largest in Europe. What can we say? You have to try it!