Salsomaggiore, once upon a time known as Salso Maiore, was called this way because of the presence of particularly salty water, known and used likewise in earlier times, before the arrival of the Romans.
We only have few information about the history of Salsomaggiore: we know that it was a cultural centre dedicated to the collection of salt for many centuries and that, in order to defend the territory, there had been built many castles (Tabiano, Contignaco, Bargone, Scipione, Gallinella), some of which still standing today.
Nevertheless, the thermal success of Salsomaggiore began in 1839, when the doctor Lorenzo Berzieri tested the usage of this particular water, containing sodium chloride, bromide and iodine, as a medicament: until that time, it has been used only to extract salt. The first patient subject to this test was a young girl about nine years old, who had a rare inflammatory infection in her foot. Berzieri remembered the studies of the beneficial effects of the seawater for the glandular inflammation, so he thought about using the briny water for the same goal, considering it had a higher percentage of salt then the seawater. You may guess how this story ended…the girl healed in few months!
The beneficial effects of the thermal waters moved forward and since then, the “Village of the Salt” slowly changed his economy and consequently his urbanistic-architectonical structure, becoming, in the beginning of the 1900s, an example of Ville d’Eaux.
The first rudimentary establishment of the thermal bath was realized inside a private house: then they started the construction of the huge building of the Thermal Bath Berzieri in 1913, and completed it about ten years later. The State commissioned them and decided to realize them in a Liberty and Decò style. The thermal tourism grew bigger with the creation of the railway that allow the nobles and middle-class to reach and stay in Salsomaggiore both to have some medical healing and to chill out and live the mundanity in some of the most luxurious hotel of the town.
During time, they choose Salsomaggiore as holiday destination but also as residence place: so appeared lot of villas in Art Nouveau, Secession and Art Dèco styles.
After an inflection of the tourism in the last years of the 1900s, it was opened the first Spa centre inside the Thermal Bath Berzieri in the 1998, which was expanded in the following years and still functioning today.
The architects Ugo Giusti and Giulio Bernardini designed the Thermal Bath Berzieri and the artist from Florence Galileo Chini together with his partners, Francesco Aloisi and Guido Calori decorated it. The Liberty style, oriental art and Art Decò characterize the building.
The main façade is fully decorated and it is partitioned in three bodies: the middle one is in between two towers and has a front porch. The artists took years to decorate the façade: you can see majolica, mosaics, white, yellow and red marble, travertine, painted glasses, sculptures, briquettes, columns, capitals and pilasters.
The represented subject, such as lions, odalisque, weaved vegetal, zoomorphic figures, call back to the oriental art: Chini, actually, was inspired by the architectures he saw in Thailand, between 1911 and 1914. The king of Siam asked the artist to decorate the interior of the Palace of Throne of Bangkok and this trip deeply influenced Chini artistic style, contributing in stoking the research of renovation, nonconformity and expression’s freedom that was leading its works.
The same decorative richness characterize the inside of the thermal bath. Especially the entrance hall is completely covered by marbles, plasters and paintings, among which stand out the triptych representing the goddess Igea and her servants.
From the hall, a double staircase takes to the first floor, where are two Chini’s paintings representing the autumn and the spring.
The artist coming from Florence turned the Thermal bath palace in a unique building, authentic temple of health and beauty.
About the salty water…in Salsomaggiore there is also the Paleontology Museum of the “Mare Antico” –ancient sea. Inside, there is the most important collection of fossil evidence of cetacean and mollusc of the basin of the Padana Plane. The guided tour takes you to discover the evolutionary process of the territory of the Padana Plane in a period between the Miocene and the Pleistocene, when the sea was covering these lands.