Origines and Philosophy
Today Terme di Castrocaro is among the best known and most visited hot springs in Italy. Its history is relatively recent, as it was first used in the middle of the 19th century. The thermal complex of Castrocaro has been in use since 1830, year of the modern-era discovery of its brackish waters by Prof. Antonio Targioni Tozzetti. It was officially inaugurated in 1851 upon the initiative of Count Antonio Marescotti, who put the building previously belonging to the Counts Guarini at the disposal of the establishment. In 1869 Dr. Aristide Conti’s purchase of the springs gave renewed impulse to the nascent business, which had in the meantime acquired a new facility. In 1887 construction of the Conti Hot Springs began, followed in 1899 by the arrangement of the park, which was later decorated with sculptures from the first quarter of the nineteenth century from the workshop of the sculptor Casalini. The decorative architectural complex “Fonte Littoria” dates to 1924, product of the majolica workshop of Focaccia and Melandri. The origin of the place-name Solona, found in the language of the Umbrians who first settled this region, together with that of Salsubium in Roman times, reveals that the presence of salt and thermal waters were already known in Antiquity.
Although the waters of Castrocaro were mentioned in 1348 by Flavio Biondo in his “Illustrated Italy,” they were lost to history for centuries. It wasn’t until 1829 that a farmer was arrested for violating the salt monopoly by filling a barrel with water from the spring called “della Bolca” with the aim of extracting salt from it. The barrel was sequestered on the basis of an 1819 law and was handed over to a Florentine court. Here it was examined by Antonio Targioni Tozzetti, a doctor and husband of the famous muse of Giacomo Leopardi. Targioni Tozzetti showed the curative properties of the springs. This gave rise to the current hot springs operation, which was initiated in 1838 and afterwards expanded through a series of private initiatives. In 1841 the Marquise Martelli, a Florentine noblewoman, was cured after using the waters of Castrocaro.
The incident made the springs famous; at this point a lawyer named Frassineti opened the hot springs operation with a building consisting of five rooms with wooden baths. Ten years later, the institution founded by Frasinetti joined another which had been set up by the Marescotti family in the Guarini Palace in Castrocaro. Water taken from the nearby Cozzi Valley was siphoned into special barrels which were transported in wagons. Upon the death of Marescotti, the institution was taken over by his wife and daughter, who named it “Liverini Sisters Bathing Facility.”
In 1870 Aristide Conti, an entrepreneur in Castrocaro, discovered a new thermal spring near his home. He then began a new operation, which expanded the existing facilities with waters from the Bolga and Cozzi springs, located to the north.
In 1929 ownership of the baths, which had been integrated into the “Fonte Littoria” architectural complex with the majolica decorations of the workshop of Focaccia and Melandri, passed from the Conti heirs to the public insurance company INA. In 1936 ownership of the hot springs, renamed Royal Hot Springs of Castrocaro, passed to the Italian state by order of Mussolini, who personally used the facility and hosted his guests at the Grand Hotel (1939). Elegance and refinement have, then, always been the hallmarks of the Grand Hotel, which has over the years hosted important figures such as Marshall Graziani and the generals Rimmel, Kesserling, Anders and Eisenhower. It further played a role in the history of Italy when following the fall of Mussolini’s government on 8 September 1943 it was chosen to host the first cabinet meeting of the new fascist government, during which the creation of the Italian Social Republic was proclaimed.
Designed by Tito Chini, the building features one of the most important examples of Italian Art Deco produced by the ceramic manufacture of Borgo S. Lorenzo. The contributions of the famous Florentine designer and decorator brought changes to the original project, which in regard to the hot springs facilities was carried out by the engineer Diego Corsani. Changes included raising a part of the building by one floor, the terrace on the side of the park and the water tower.
The decorations of the Festive Pavilion (1936-1941) are especially noteworthy: these were designed by Corsani and creatively modified by Chini with the assistance, for the painted sections, of the designers Donatello and Loris Faggi and of Cosimo Donatini. A skillful use of materials is also evident: terracotta (the visible bricks), black marble, travertine, lusterware (Tamontini). The history of the Grand Hotel runs parallel to that of the resort which today is considered the gem of Italy’s hot springs business. And traces of its glorious past are still there, to be seen in the walls of its original architecture and in its refined atmosphere which gives the visitor sensations of wellbeing and total relaxation.