The Royal Casino in Ponte a Serraglio was the first public casino in Europe. Gambling was already popular in the area and people would gather in one of the buildings in Bagni Caldi, which now houses the thermal baths, until Carlo Lodovico di Borbone commissioned Giuseppe Pardini to build the casino in 1837.
The interior of the building is beautiful and was lovingly restored recently, bringing back to life the walls decorated with the gilded lilies on a blue background, similar to the Florentine iris. The original ornate crystal chandeliers are still there along with some of the original furnishings.
2 French gentlemen, Adrien Mathis and Edouard Ginnestet were allowed the management of the gambling. European aristocracy gambled fortunes at “biribosso”, a game of chance using numbered counters, said to be the beginnings of roulette. Several early gambling games were originally played here in Bagni di Lucca. The profits from the casino helped with the management of the spas in the area.
It must have been a fun place to be, with poetry, plays and concerts performed by the famous musicians of the day, including Franz Liszt.
The casino closed after WWII, but reopened in 2005 after the renovations, which took 2 years. It was used for a time as the information centre and is now available for exhibitions and private functions.
I love the details on the walls and ceilings. I was here when the restoration work was being done and the patient workers would occasionally let me watch them at work. It inspired me to paint my walls at home. I wish they looked as good as the ones at the casino.
The casino is in Ponte a Serraglio, Via del Casino 66/68. There is parking space at Villa Fiori across the river and you can walk to the casino via the passerella (walking bridge).
As you rightly say, the current Casinò was built in the 1830s; however, the gambling tradition goes in Bagni di Lucca goes back a few centuries. It has been regulated since 1308, when the Repubblica di Lucca ordered it and decided that all profits would go towards continuing a tradition established by Countess Matilda di Canossa. We discussed her in your beautiful post about the Devil’s Bridge. According to the “Gran Contessa”, all pilgrims and poor people coming through the Thermal Baths were to be given a “bagno curativo” and a meal free of charge. After the death of the generous Countess, they continued with the tradition, but this became very expensive and the government did not want to raise taxes. For this reason, they decided to regulate the gambling that was already taking place in the inns and taverns of the region and to use the profits to pay for this charitable work. We should remember that the thermal baths were the only cure available for many illnesses at a time when there were not many other options available.
The Casinò is beautiful and worth a visit, although I am not too keen on the coin operated gambling machines.
I love your photos showing all the architectural and decorative detail.
THIS could be my future home too. Love the lily and have the same for my curtain tassels. Kind of a castle already. I’m getting there… 🙂
I love tassels ever since seeing Omar Shariff riding out of a mirage in the desert in Lawrence of Arabia.
Lovely building the local bridge club is indeed lucky to have such a gorgeous place to meet.
They were all having a great time on Sunday.
Great header photo and good luck with the new blog. If it’s anywhere near as successful as your other one, Bagni di Lucca will need to start installing more accommodation – and parking unfortunately!
That would be an excellent result…..perhaps not the car parks.
These are great pictures. Is there anything happening there now, last time we were in town someone mentioned it may start opening for dinner?
The restaurant is open for dinner. I have been there and it is quite good.
The casino is now closed again, only open for events…pity.
What a lovely building…it is wonderful that it was restored.
I can see if from my balcony.
Congratulations on your new blog – Bagni di Lucca is ‘bella’ indeed! You go from strength to strength with your stunning photos and stories. I look forward to reading more personal and historical accounts concerning this beautiful area.
John and I were very pleased to see the casino restored to its former glory, also glad not to see the recent gambling machines before they were installed. Their crass neon lights and annoying jingling detract the historical charm of this building. Would it be better to have the old-fashioned casino machines returned – would this attract people to the authenc atmosphere of this lovely old casino?
I also love the story about Emilio and Alfa in Colle.
It would be wonderful to have the old gambling machines in the casino. We can hope.
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