Then and now…Bagno alla Villa

There is a small piazza above La Villa, the commercial centre of Bagni di Lucca. Bagno alla Villa has one of the many spas that used to be a popular place to “take the waters”.

La Villa spa

La Villa spa

Bagno alla Villa

The spa is still there but is not operating.

Bagno alla Villa

Bagno alla Villa

The building has been restored and there is even a pool in the nearby property, Villa Ada.

Bagno alla Villa

Work has been done to restore several of the baths in Bagni di Lucca. Soon they will fall into disrepair again. It is a puzzle to me why the administration is not doing more to encourage someone to operate the spas and help bring people and employment to the area.

…any takers?

37 thoughts on “Then and now…Bagno alla Villa

  1. Not only were they popular places to “take the water” and “take the cure” but they were also the centers for thorough bathing before in-door plumbing. The villages have come a long way in my lifetime. I remember when people went down to BDL from the villages to get their baths.
    It is rather incredible that Bagni di Lucca’s claim to fame for centuries now are being allowed to deteriorate so. These are historic and beautiful buildings.

    • I didn’t know that the baths were used in that way. Of course it makes sense when there were no bathrooms in the houses. It must have felt wonderful to immerse your dirty body into one of those deep marble baths in the lovely hot water.
      It breaks my heart that these buildings are not in use. While many small towns struggle to find a focus for renewal, Bagni di Lucca has the perfect basis to start afresh. These old spas could be open and bringing in much needed money and work opportunities.

  2. With so many ex -pats living there and spending much of their vacations there you would think there would be an interest for someone to bring life back in to these. There is already so much to offer in the area it would add another draw-card for visitors from around the world.

  3. I agree that the village and surrounding areas would benefit from getting the spas up and running again. Being so close to many of Italy’s iconic attractions I am sure good advertising and ‘word of mouth’ would bring many new visitors to the area which would also boost the existing local business.

  4. The Bagno alla VIlla is also surrounded by many beautiful palaces and villas which were built by the aristocracy (the Gonzagas, Bonaparte, Buonvisi… to name a few) who came to “take the waters” and still stand , some of them in excellent condition (the former Gonzaga’s villa in which Saint Louis Gonzaga’s used to say Mass is for sale, or at least it was until recently), the Marquis Buonvisi palace, belongs to Council and is currently maintained by the Vicaria Val di Lima (crossbow shooters and historical recreation club) … But there is so much to do that what is needed is a company that will take the lease and restore the buildings to their former glory and will make the baths operational again. I do know that Council has been trying to do that, but, at the last minute, the potential candidates do not go ahead… And everyone is left waiting.
    As for the use of the Thermal Baths, there is a great account in the book written by the famous French writer, Michel de Montaigne, in his book “Journal du Voyqge en Italie” which is considered a classic. Montaigne stayed in a house above La Villa for some 3 months, back in the 16th Century to get cured from some vey painful gallstones, which the waters did. A very interesting work for anyone who is interested in the history of the site.

  5. In the 6 years that I have been visiting Bagni di Lucca and the more I discover about this very special place the more convinced I become that this well kept secret should be shared. Debra you do an amazing job but as other readers point out it needs a passionate official or company to help Bagni di Lucca become the vibrant hub it once was. Buon Anno, Andrea x

  6. I thought I knew the area reasonably well – at least for a part time tourist but I don’t recognise this building at all. Is that the side of Villa Ada in the last photograph? I thought I recognised the yellow painted facade. At times Lucca is literally heaving with tourists and I am sure there are ways of tempting them to Bagni. Before that though Bagni’s ‘offer’ needs to be improved and these old buildings and their facilities are part of it. Like your other readers I am amazed at how an area with such a rich cultural heritage is not better placed to take advantage of it.
    Venice has its ‘Friends of Venice’ action group which has raised funds to highlight the plight of Venice and reverse the damage done by the rising waters. Perhaps you could get something similar up and running in Bagni. In my experience it is dedicated volunteers who often become the agents for change.

    • That is Villa Ada in the last photo. The piazza is lined with houses as well as the spa.
      There are a couple of volunteer groups working in the villages to good effect. There is, of course, room for more.
      I plant the flowers on the bridge at Ponte a Serraglio and now there is a small group of us taking care of them. Things start small and hopefully grow.

  7. Years ago my father and his friend from Scotland raised funds in their respective countries to restore the bell tower in Pieve di Monti di Villa along with other small restoration projects in those villages. The people who had emigrated seemed happy to make contributions to some projects to maintain the beauty and functionality of some of the old treasures in their native country.
    That said, I believe there are issues regarding bureaucracy, ownership, politics and the continued upkeep and maintenance of these historic buildings that make it a more complicated undertaking. I hope there is someone out there with the resources to make it happen. Bagni di Lucca is a treasure that deserves to be kept alive and thriving.
    Debra, I thank you for all that you do. Your interest in the area is contagious and the flowers you plant help Ponte look its finest. Thank you to the group who keep those flowers looking beautiful when you’re not there. Those beautiful, little touches make a big difference.

    • There are so many places in BdL that would be spectacular if someone would restore them. Villa Fiori breaks my heart, for example. I wish the Commune would do like many other European cities do – lease out the property for €1 a year for 99 years with the stipulation that the place be renovated and used as something that benefits the community. Villa Fiori would make a wonderful boutique hotel/restaurant for tourism and weddings. My husband and I take the dogs down to the little park there and I don’t think we’ve ever been there an NOT mentioned that.

      There must be something that can be done with properties like these.

      • I have mentioned Villa Fiori a few times. It is crying out for some love. I park my car there and every time I walk past it I am disappointed.

      • I am afraid it will take a big change in mentality and some vision for possibilities. Once the casino’ fizzled and much too much was spent on the bridge from the parking area to the casino’, local interest seems to have died off with it. Hopefully, egos and politics will get out of the way and solutions will be sought to rehabilitate and preserve the beautiful elements of this wonderful town.

      • Vision is what is lacking in the villages. A strong leader with some good ideas would go a long way. People need to be inspired to try something new. I understand that it is easy to become disillusioned with things that have happened, but there is always room for improvement.

  8. My father was in the US Army, 10th Mountain Division during World War II. He was in the Italian Alps on a mission to knock the Germans off the high ground. Unfortunately he was severely wounded in the assault and barely escaped with his life, finally having an amputation and being shipped back to the states for further surgeries and recovery. One of the good memories he shared about his time in Italy was his R&R in Baggni Di Lucca at the baths. I hope to visit this area someday to see where my young father fought bravely for freedom.

    • Thank you for sharing that story about your courageous father. Wish I could thank him for his service. My father was a partigiano in Bagni di Lucca during the war. I’m so glad your father was able to find some R& R in Bagni during those very difficult times.

      • I love this story too. It is amazing how many people write with their recollections or connections with Bagni di Lucca. It is one of the things I like about writing the blog. Sometimes I get to meet some of these people as well, which is very special.

      • So thankful for your blog, Debra. So wonderful to read about the many connections to the Bagni di Lucca area and we have you to thank for that.

    • Both Villa Fiori and Villa Ada would take a lot of work and money to restore. I doubt whether there would be anyone local wanting to take it on. The net needs to be cast wide.

      • Certainly not the locals. Anyone will need to spend at least 2 or 3 million in the restoration and I do not want to think about the upkeep. As for the baths, millions are also needed to have them running up to modern standards and be able to compete with the many therms which are operating in Italy. At least, Bernabo has been leased at a very low price, taking into account that the lessee needs to obtain official certification of the waters and premises. This again, means to spend lots of money. There were also talks about the Bagno alla Villa and it was raised at a Council meeting. The potential lessee wanted a long term lease to which some Councillors objected. On the other hand, the potential lessee justified this saying that he had to spend large amounts in works and promotions and that his company had to be able to at least get back its investment. Which is understandable. I do not know whether there has been any progress….

  9. I’ve often wondered about this place when I walk by. It’s great to have some information about it. I agree, it would be so lovely to see some of these buildings in use. If I ever win the lottery…

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