Montecatini Alto, Tuscany

Some cities make their attractions obvious. Montecatini Terme is clearly a pretty town to walk around, and those spa buildings are gorgeous, even if, in April, you mostly can’t get in the grounds to look around them. But what else do people look at around here?

Montecatini Alto, the medieval village on the hill that overlooks the city, is the main thing. The funicular railway that runs up is €4 one way and €7 both. We figured we’d start the walk, see what it was like and turn back to catch a ride up if necessary. Reviews warn that the track can be slippery, but there was no danger of that on a dry day. And of course, once we’d walked for half an hour or so, we could see progress, and continuing to walk up was fine. There are a couple of steeper sections, but they’re not so tough (or so early) as to make you turn round in disgust.

Once climbed, and the shortest route doesn’t take all that long, you come immediately to a viewpoint.


It’s a small village, with a few churches and the old stronghold to see.

Apart from the views and the satisfaction at walking up, spending the funicular money on a pizza which was serenaded by the bird in the picture above, my highlight was the monument/installation dedicated to Saint Barbara.

Artillery piece, shells and other items, in tribute to Saint Barbara
The artillery piece drew my eye first.

Check it out. The gun pulled me in, and soon I was reading the description. I reproduce it in full for you below. One highlight;  “The patron saint of attendants in charge of explosives preparation and storage and, more generally…” Yes, you are not kidding, those other things are slightly more general.

“This unique monument is dedicated to Saint Barbara, the patron saint of Montecatini Terme, whose relic is kept in the museum of the Saint Peter’s Parish Church nearby. The Catholic Church celebrates Saint Barbara on December 4th.

Saint Barbara is the patron saint of the attendants in charge of explosives preparation and storage and, more generally, she is invoked against lighting, fire, sudden and violent and danger. She is the protector of the Italian Military Navy, the Fire Brigade, the Army (Artillery and Civil Engineers) as well as of the miners and oil workers, geologists, mountain men, architects, bell ringers, towers and fortresses.

The monument is dominated by the Saint’s statue located on the top right-hand side, on a simple stone altar which rests on a Karst-gravelled ground (place of bloody battles during World War I). The monument shows the particular symbols represented by the historical finds regarding the various institutions that are under Saint Barbara’s projection.”

There is so much going on there. I mean, if you’re considering careers and fancy something with a bit of edge, bear in mind you might have missed one. Hmm, military in some way? Mountaineering? Perhaps bell ringing? Wait, what was that last one?

We walked back down, gazing down the funicular track, taking in the small shrines along the way and watching the green city centre get ever closer.

Terme parkrun, Montecatini-Terme, Italy

Terme parkrun route
Terme parkrun route. 3 laps, clockwise.

Montecatini-Terme is a Spa town, albeit one whose spas are mostly closed at this time of year. It is, though, full of hotels, and those hotels are generally pretty close to the park. In my case, it was a case of turning right out of the entrance and from there I could see the Teatro Verdi, at the bottom of the map, above. Yes, that close, so I explored the park the day before.

"Runners do not dirt. Do like me: keep these areas clean", sign
Runners don’t dirt, sign.

I didn’t manage to work out the course, not totally, but I got the rough idea. If you know you go clockwise, that helps a lot. On the day, I followed the enthusiastic and friendly (he gave me a hug when we were introduced!) youngster, introduced as “the local champion”, and took, accidentally, literally the instructions that I should follow him for a lap and then run off once I knew where I was going. Sorry, local champion!

Terme group photo
Terme group photo.

The pre-run briefing was minimal, as has often been the case in Italy, but the local Irish-Italian (born there, lives here) had spoken to most of us, in any case. Attendance was swelled by the Taplow Youth Choir, who have been touring in Tuscany for the week. Invited by Burgess Runner Simon, to whom we talked Green Belt Relay, we pitched up at their concert in the Basilica that evening. Those kids could sing.

Many of them could run, too, with the others choosing to walk. I think some were left at the hotel, so this hadn’t been a compulsory piece of fun, but most of them attended, which is brilliant.

We had a nice front four, me, local champion and a couple of young bass tenors. I managed to leave them behind, proud of myself until realising just how young they were when they sang in lovely shiny outfits, later that evening.

Libby and me, post run
Libby and me, post run.

Libby, from my club, 26.2 (Surbiton, England) had come out to join me and run her 4th Italian parkrun, and here we look ecstatic at the finish. The joy turned to minor worry later, as the results were an obvious problem. Crucial keys had been taken to Rome, so the crew had no kit, signs, stopwatches etc., and were just aiming to do their best.

Taplow Youth Choir's organisers and us
Taplow Youth Choir’s organisers, a run director, Libby, me.

We got results late on Sunday, after an appeal by (I assume) a returning run director for us to send in our times and positions. We got ours in there straight away, but at the mo, only two others have. They’ll either get all of the choir later, or none of them. And then, some years hence, when those young folk get into parkrun, they will say to themselves “Oh, I wish I could get that Terme parkrun added!” So speaks a semi-obsessed park runner, grateful to have added his sixth Italian parkrun to the list, officially.

Results from event 18, Terme parkrun.

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