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.

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