The Grand Countess Matilda of Tuscany—to give you an idea, a woman who in 1076 owned everything north of the Papal State and who the emperor Henry V called the “vice queen of Italy”—had, like most people, certain affectations. For some people, the sweetest of her whims was her affection for her pet blackbird. At the time, falconry was very popular; kings and princes were always getting their portraits made with birds of prey positioned on their wrists, which was the latest vanity fashion imported from the Middle East. But the Grand Countess liked to set herself apart, and so her closest feathered friend was a more humble blackbird. A magic bird, too, with predictive powers, a happy singing voice, and not lacking in imitation abilities. In short, a fitting flying animal for such a Countess.
At a certain point, however, the blackbird got ill. The circumstances greatly saddened Countess Matilda: having to watch her feathered friend suffer, lose feathers, limp around with her right leg recoiled, flit around low, trying to fly. It suffered more and more each day. Despite the suffering, however, the connection between Matilda and her bird was so strong that she continued to let her out, hoping to instill faith in her, and the blackbird, suddenly and without going back, began to improve. This phenomenon continued: another day, a third, a fourth. After a week, the bird was still coming back home refreshed, with a more limpid and clear singing voice; one Sunday morning, Matilda truly had the impression that the bird was serenading her, with that piercing voice…She then decided to follow her to find out what brought her back on her feet.
Given that the black of the feathers were once again intense, and her beak was a bright yellow like she’d never seen before, the right moment had arrived and one Tuesday morning, Matilda trailed behind her blackbird on one of her expeditions. This was how she discovered that the blackbird would fly to stick its legs in a strange, smoky body of water. Having seen the results, the Grand Countess wanted to sink herself into those miraculous life-giving waves: she found substantial benefits from them.
Matilda of Tuscany then decided to construct some basins, bringing about what would then become the thermal sources for Casciana Terme: here lime-sulfur waters gush out continually at a temperature of 37°.