Montecatini Alto

Montecatini Alto caratteristico borgo medioevale, ricco di storia e di avvenimenti, di cultura e di personaggi illustri è uno dei più antichi nuclei abitati della Valdinievole.

Questo antichissimo nucleo già intorno all'anno 1000 possedeva 25 tra torri e case-torri e 2 fortezze, una cinta muraria, disposta seguendo il naturale andamento dei due colli, lunga 2 chilometri, con ben 7 porte a tutta riprova di una fiera e intrasigente nobiltà civica e di una indiscussa importanza strategica e militare che durò fino al 1315 anno in cui Castruccio Castracani, ghibellino, pose d'assedio il Castello, lo espugnò e lo saccheggiò atrocemente. Seguirono anni più tranquilli, per circa due secoli sotto la Repubblica Fiorentina e subito dopo sotto la sovranità della Famiglia dei Medici. Ma a interrompere questo lungo periodo di pace fu l'intervento dei Capitano di ventura Pietro Strozzi che se ne impossessò per ordine di Enrico Il di Francia che, in quel periodo, aveva assunto il compito di difendere Siena dalle armi dei Duca Cosimo dei Medici; Cosimo pose d'assedio il Castello e nel 1554 decretò la morte pressochè totale dell'abitato ordinando la demolizione delle fortificazioni, l'abbattimento delle mura e della fortezza, la distruzione di gran parte di case e torri, e l'incendio, sulla pubblica piazza, di antichi documenti conservati negli archivi. Unici edifici scampati alla furia devastatrice furono il Palazzo di Giustizia, la Cancelleria, la loggia, la pieve, le chiese con i conventi, centosettanta case e le poche torri ancora oggi visibili. 

Nel ripercorrere oggi piazze, slarghi, strade e vicoletti di questo bel borgo antico, si scorgono edifici pennellati dal tempo, rigorosamente e sapientemente mantenuti nel loro aspetto architettonico originario in un contesto storico ricco di valori culturali e ambientali. E la riconferma nel tempo di Montecatini Alto come centro rilevante della Valdinievole stimolò anche una brillante attività edilizia con la realizzazione di alcuni edifici e ville dall'impronta marcatamente eclettica. 

Fu costruita così anche la funicolare, inaugurata il 4 Giugno 1898, concepita come collegamento meccanico, veloce e diretto, tra l'antico Borgo Medioevale e la nascente Città delle Terme, degli alberghi e dei commercio. I due rossi trenini, trainati da un unico cavo d'acciaio, trasportarono personaggi illustri e altri visitatori che sopratutto nel periodo estivo venivano quassù per passeggiare al fresco dei viali alberati e godere dell'incantevole panorama della valle. Giuseppe Verdi soprattutto, assiduo frequentatore della Città Termale, si curava con le acque e nei momenti di svago e relax saliva al Castello, con il gruppo degli amici più cari, per sostare nella piazza dove già erano in funzione gli odierni bar, le caffetterie e le mescite di vino.

 

MONTECATINI ALTO

Montecatini Alto, a characteristic medieval village, abounding in historical events culture and illustrious personages, is one of the most ancient inhabited centrs in the Valdinievole. The Vallis Nebulae, or Valley of Fog, as it was called was, of old, inhabited by the Ligurians, Etruscans, Romans and Longobards and was always of relevant strategic importance because its hill dominated the important roads of communication such as the Cassia, the Francesca and the Romea. The Montecatini Alto of today, a suggestive outdoor masterpiece, does not retain the image of a sole period nor does it have a style with a definite, rigid imprint Instead, it is witness toa historical parable of intense experiences, filled with dark moments, almost total descruction opposed to other periods of growth and splendour. Borgo, Castello, Terra Murata: around the year 1000 this ancient nucleus already had twenty-five house-towers and two fortresses to its name, town walls two kilometres long, built according to the natural course of the two hills, with seven gateways confirming a proud and uncompromising civic nobility and an indisputable strategic and military importance that lasted up until the fatal year of 1315, when Castruccio Castracani, a Ghibelline, lieutenant of Uguccione della Fagiola, laid siege to the castle, took it by storm and sacked it atrociously. There followed more peaceful years for around two centuries, up until 1537, under the Florentine Republic and straight afetr, under the supremacy of the Medici family. But this long period of peace was interrupted by the intervention of the mercenary captain Pietro Strozzi, who took possession of the town in the name of Henry 11 of France who, at that time, had taken upon himself to defend Sienna from the arms of Duke Cosimo dei Medici. Irritated by such arrogance, Cosimo laid siege to the Castle and, on July 11 1554, decreed an almost total descruction of the popolated parts of the town by ordering that the fortifications, be demolished, the walls and fortress knocked down, the greater part of the houses and towers destroyed and the ancient documents kept in the archives burnt in the public square. The only buildings to escape his devastating fury were the Palace of Justice, Chancellery, loggia, parish church, churches with convents, 170 houses and the few towers still visible to this day.Yhe reconstruction work, with the poor means available at the time but with the great tenacity of the inhabitants, can be seen today in the dry-stone walling and patches of plaster, that reveal white blocks and travertine ashlars of who knows which destroyed tower or fallen archway, and portals that retain their elegance and dignity even though compressed in those walls of stone; and other, poorer materials utilised that tell us of human calamities, sad events and epic battles, but also of the great willpower and strenght to rebuild. When passing through the squares, openings, roads and alleys of this ancient village today, you can see buildings touched by time, that have been rigorously and wisely kept in their original architectural form within a rich historical context of cultural and environmental values. And so the funicular railways was built and inaugurated on June 4/06/ 1898. It was conceived as a fast direct mechanical connection between the ancient medieval village and the growing Spa Town, hotels and commerce. The two little trains, pulled by a single steel cable, carried illustrious personages and other visitors who, especially in the summer period, would come up here to stroll in the coolness of the tree-lined avenues and enjoy the enchanting view of the valley. Even Giuseppe Verdi, an assiduous visitor to the spa town, would partake of the waters and, in moments of recreation and relaxation, wuold come up to the Castle with a group of his dearest friends to rest in the square where the bars, cafis and wine-bars of today were already in business. And even before the great maestro, Giuseppe Giusti, born at Monsummano in May 1809, a genius of Italian melodrama and illustrious son of the Valdinievole, a very keen writer and great poet lived in his paternal house,'which still stands next to the ancient parish church, known today as Saint Peter's church, with the overhanging fortress. And he would return here often, after the family moved to Pescia, to breathe the "balsamic current", as he loved to defined the air of his Montecatini Alto.