From the ancient Aqui alla Bagni di Casciana of the post-war years until its
IF YOU THINK A THOUSAND YEARS ISN’T LONG
A noble history, full of interest and fascinating mysteries, which recalls old
Casciana would be one of the numerous small towns dotted around the Pisan hills, had not
a spring of spa water changed the course of its history. A thousand eventful years have transformed
a little pool into thermal baths where millions of people have found relief for their ills and sufferings. A
tiny cluster of medieval houses transformed into a grand-ducal palace.
Its origins are swathed in a romantic legend going back to the times of Countess Matilde of Canossa (1046-1115). The story goes that this great lady had a pet blackbird crippled
and in constant pain, but which liked to take a daily flutter from the ancestral
home, always returning more chirpy than when it set out. Now, the countess once noticed it diving into a certain pool of warm water,
and it was then that she realized the reason for her faithful pet’s daily rejuvenation.
The countess herself took to bathing in those miraculous waters, thereby relieving
the aches and pains of old age and especially the troubles of the ailment from
which she suffered, the gout.
Apart from the legend, Matilde did in fact encourage the development of the baths
and therefore the exploitation of the beneficent qualities of those waters, building
infrastructures and decorative features.
The structures of the Baths of Casciana had a provisional appearance until the year 1300, when Federico da Montefeltro, ruler of Pisa, ordered the rebuilding of the whole establishment. The Baths
were laid out more rationally, with the actual bathing zone divided into four,
one for the men, one for the women, one for the sick and a fourth for animals.
This subdivision remained until 1700. In the meantime the peace and quiet of the
little town was many times thrown into confusion by the disasters of succeeding
centuries. In 1362 continual warfare led to the Florentines burning down many
castles in the Pisan hills, and among them those of Bagni Aqui, as Casciana Terme was called at the time. In 1630 a serious outbreak of the
plague reaped numerous victims in the area.
Things got so bad as to lead to the establishment of a place for giving hospitality
to the sick, to pilgrims and to crusaders passing through these hills. The 1846
earthquake caused more death and destruction. It was at that time that Ferdinand III of Lorraine changed the whole aspect of the establishment, bringing it more into line with
the needs of the age and of the aristocracy of the time. If we go on to read the
history of Casciana until (up to 1956) it was called Bagni di Casciana, or indeed of when (as we read in certain parchments dating from 800, 900 and
1000) it bore the name of Aqui or Balneum ad Aquas, we cannot but be spellbound by the many events which contributed, first to
the ascending phase of the ideal parabola that made it a bathing place adored
by intellectuals and other distinguished personages who described it as the most
relaxing of all places for “taking the waters”, spick and span and full of greenery,
and outstanding for its hospitality.
Today Casciana, thanks to its geographical location and proximity to famous ‘cities
of art’ of Tuscany (i.e. Pisa, Florence, Lucca etc.), is the ideal starting point
for many interesting sightseeing tours.