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BAGNI DI LUCCA
An obvious resting point mid-way on the journey to Abetone, Giacomo Puccini had many dear friends in Bagni di Lucca, and he enjoyed the tranquillity of this thermal spa town, which he had known since he was a teenager. During the late 1870's, before he left for his studies in Milan , young Puccini was hired to play the piano at the Royal Casino Ridotti. Nestled in the hills north of Lucca , Bagni di Lucca was a very fashionable place, having been known for its thermal waters since the Middle Ages. It was patronized by noble families, gamblers and rich tourists, and it was here that his friend, local pharmacist and father of the famous violinist, Adolfo, Dr. Adelson Betti, commissioned Giacomo Puccini to write a piece for the local church, Dr. Betti serving as its organist and choirmaster at the time. Puccini responded with his Vexilla regis , based on a religious text from 569, which was performed in honour of Easter Week, when the town was full of wealthy Italians and elegant tourists from abroad. Later in life, after he sold his Abetone villa, Puccini often went to stay at Bagni di Lucca, and it was here in 1909 at the Grand Hotel delle Terme that he composed much of the second act of La Fanciulla del West . In 1919 the idea for Turandot was born at Bagni di Lucca while he and and both the opera's librettists, Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni, were vacationing there at the same time. Bagni di Lucca has also, over the years, been the hang-out of many artists and intellectuals: poet Lord Byron, the Shelley family, Maestro Toscannini, composer Mascagni, members of the Bonaparte family, the Barrett-Brownings and many others. There are many things to see in this Tuscan mountain town, apart from visiting the famous thermal treatment spas for which the place is famous. The Bridge of Chains was built in 1840 and connects one side of the River Lima to the other. Near the bridge is the famous casino, Ponte a Serraglio, the first licensed casino in Europe and the place where Roulette was reputed to have been invented. There is also an English church and cemetery, which over the years since it was built in 1800 has served the visiting and resident English community.