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).