Since the 1800s, Bagni di Lucca has attracted sophisticated vacationers who have returned time and time again to visit this city in the heart of the Lucchesia and whose stories of their holidays brought fame to the thermal bath town. Amongst the various visits by Montaigne, Shelley and Byron, as well as Falloppio and Redi – the most famous doctors of the time – Elisa Bonaparte of the Baciocchi family so too fell in love with this place, turning the town into a true summer capital during her reign as the Princess of Lucca. She made major developments to the thermal baths and to the surrounding territory. To renovate the resorts, Bonaparte called the best architects of the era: Marraci and Sanbuchy. After this, in the few years between the Bourbon Restoration and Charles Louis II’s reign as Duke, Bagni di Lucca became one of the most sought after spa destinations on the continent. Let’s discover the corners of the city that made it so unique in that period.
Exploring Bagni di Lucca means immersing yourself in an oasis that from spring to autumn reveals all sorts of corners of beauty, harmony, freshness and traces of a not-so-distant past, like the Liberty-infused classicism of the Royal Casino, inaugurated in 1839, followed shortly by the first Anglican church in Italy and the English Cemetery.
Bagni di Lucca’s international importance didn’t just stop at making it the gem of the Principality of Lucca, but drove the city to establish within its borders whatever was necessary to make its guests, coming from all over Europe, feel right at home.
Among the most impressive traces of the era is the Ponte delle Catene, designed by Lorenzo Nottolini. It was a bridge truly ahead of its time, made with iron and boasting the technique of chain suspension and a complex mechanism that maintains tension. The bridge must have seemed like a small precursor to the Brooklyn Bridge or the Golden Gate Bridge, and it perfectly met the aesthetic criteria of the prevailing classicism, with two triumphal arches on each end. Ponte delle Catene was considered the crème de la crème when it was built and it surely still remains so today, being one of the oldest iron bridges in Europe still standing!
A british touch can also be found at Villa Ada, a late-Renaissance building that was modernized in the 1800s by the British Consul Sir Mc Bean. The villa is surrounded by a Romantic park, enriched with artificial grottos in limestone and wrought-iron railings in the shape of intertwining branches.
We conclude our stroll through the Bagni di Lucca of yesteryear at Circolo dei Forestieri, whose appearance has remained unchanged since 1924. The Club has been reserved for visitors since 1912 and was, among other things, a casino frequented during the Fascist period by Edda Ciano and other top party officials. It was closed as a gambling institution in 1953 and is today home to a restaurant and some associations.