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«Press Therm Climat 2009;146:265-272 THERMAL BATHS AND WELLNESS IN ITALY Aldo LI CASTRI1 Numbers and thermal baths The network of Italian thermal ...»

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Press Therm Climat 2009;146:265-272



Numbers and thermal baths

The network of Italian thermal baths represents an important resource for the health and

wellness of its citizens as well as for the economy and the territory. There are 380 spas

spread over 20 regions and 2 autonomous provinces (177 are in the north (46.7 %), 56

in the centre (14.8 %) and 146 in the south and islands (38.5 %)). They are located in 180 municipalities and employ over 16,000 workers. This is a resource to be communicated, valorized and promoted, by illustrating the proven scientific value of thermal therapy for one’s health but also as preventative medicine and for rehabilitation. We must also consider its indirect contributions to the local economy. It creates jobs and acts as a tourist attraction [1].

With these numbers and these considerations, the president of Federterme Confindustria, Jannotti Pecci, opened the annual meeting of the Thermal World Forum promoted by ANCOT (National Association of Thermal Municipalities) in Salsomaggiore on 16 October 2008. For three days the experts on Italian thermal baths got together : doctors, entrepreneurs and institutional representatives, to discuss where we are and find appropriate answers to the new demand for spas and wellness, coming from a new group of clients, the young [2].

The 2008 assembly of Federterme, held in parallel with the Thermal World Forum at Salsomaggiore, identified the need to define the situation of thermal bathing in Italy and make the necessary choices to face the strong competition developing in the European Union 27 area. On that occasion the assembly decided to commemorate the first 90 years of activity of the Federation (1919-2009), the only organisation representing the system of Italian thermal baths, through a program of cultural initiatives showing, on the one hand, the evolution and the state of the art of thermal activity in Italy and on the other the main stages in the history of the Federterme system, “because”, as President Jannotti Pecci said, on that occasion, “the history of thermalism is the story of the work and sacrifices of many colleague-entrepreneurs and an useful exercise to help us better understand the present and carry out the appropriate choices to build a future in which we will find success and personal satisfaction” [3].

The Thermal Bath Federation For the origins of Federterme, as a national organisation representing the interests of the thermal enterprises in Italy as a category (small and medium sized companies, mostly.Federterme, Italian Federation of Thermal Entrepreneurs © Société française d’hydrologie et de climatologie médicales, 2009 La Presse thermale et climatique 2009;146:265-272 family run), one must go back almost a century. In fact, it was in 1919 that the newly founded Federation of Bathing, Climatic, Hydrologic and Thermal Resorts of Italy set up its offices in Rome on Piazza San Luigi dei Francesi 34, very close to the seats of the Government and the Parliament.

Right from the beginning, the Federation called for the Government and Parliament to recognise the scientific evidence of the proven therapeutic value of mineral waters, the economic and social roles of the thermal initiatives and enterprises. It supplied them with information so they could evaluate the state of the art of the Italian thermal system and the evolution of thermalism in other European countries. A complete picture of the situation and concrete proposals for intervention, dated 16 December 1922, in Salsomaggiore, carry the signature of the President of the Federation, AM Rebucci, as we find in the document, “For the National Thermal Bath Industry – a note to the Government” printed in Borgo San Donnino by A Mattioli [4].

Already in this phase the thermal bath enterprises were looking for opportunities to take advantage of new developments, both for thermal cures and to bottle mineral water, but they were also promoting the interests of the municipalities and local areas when they launched themselves as tourist destinations. It was only a question of valorizing thermal waters, once exploited in antiquity by the Romans (and Etruscans), that existed throughout the country and in particular in the Po River valley from Piedmont and Lombardy to the Veneto and Emilia Romagna and also in Tuscany, Lazio and Campania, by supporting the medical-scientific research [5].

The National Tourist Industry Agency (ENIT) Both the Federation of Thermal Baths and ENIT were founded in 1919. Italy was just out of a war, victorious, but a victory only achieved with a large and painful sacrifice in human lives.

The spas, which before the conflict, had been frequented by a clientele from the upper classes with deep pockets now found themselves faced with a new situation characterised, on the one hand, by the burden of the physical reconstruction of the territory and on the other, by the duty of curing both the bodies and minds of the mutilated and wounded veterans from the front and civilian victims.

ENIT was given the task of promoting the touristic resources of Italy and attracting foreign tourists, even from countries which had been among Italy’s enemies in the Great War [6].

For entrepreneurs in the thermal and touristic system new perspectives and new spaces were opened. With subsidized trains, the budding tourist industry brought in new opportunities to show Italy to the Italians. This situation was totally different from that of the 18th century, when, though the tourist industry had not been invented, courageous foreign travellers and adventurers (mostly Germans, English and French) travelled the length of the peninsula so rich in natural and cultural beauty. The travel diaries kept by the more famous, became the travel guides for later travellers. One of the most well known was Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Italian Journey, but also the Bel Paese by Abbot Stoppani Press Therm Climat 2009;146:265-272 and, finally, the travel diary (on a bicycle) through southern Italy by LV Bertarelli published by Touring Club Italiano (TCI).

Touring was founded in Milan in 1894, as a club for Italian cyclists. Later its name was changed to TCI. It was started because of the members’ passion for the bicycle and outings, this organization helped to create the thoughts and proposals that brought about the birth of the modern Italian tourist industry.

The new rail network also contributed in developing flows of tourists. As Italy celebrated its first 50 years as a united country in 1911, it was already possible to travel from east to west and from the north to the south easily and in safety, but also the tunnels under the Alps allowed new flows of travellers and tourist from central Europe.

The founding of ENIT was a compromise, after a long debate, between the Italian State Railways and TCI. The former interested in the development of new flows of passengers and of promoting a tourist industry, even outside Italy, based on rail travel, the latter, was a supporter of an ENIT which was no longer attached to the State Railways and wanted to give more space to other forms of travel such as maritime, automobile and air.

The Thermal Federation began its work amidst this fervour of initiatives, as the sole representative of the thermal resorts then in operation. Its objective was to help its members grow by encouraging a network of relations which already existed between the medical/scientific world which specialised in thermal cures and the institutions which regulated an activity which was becoming increasingly important for people’s health and the economic development of the territory [7].

Visitor taxes in municipalities with hydrotherapeutic resorts starts tourist laws It is significant to note that the first regulation in the thermal sector, but also in the tourist sector preceded the founding of both Federterme and ENIT. Law No. 863 passed on December 11th, 1910 instituted visitor taxes (see the Official Gazette No. 294 of 20 December 1910). This regulation gave municipalities the right to introduce a tax on visitors that stayed for at least five days “for health reasons” in consideration of the “special importance for the local economy of the existence of hydrotherapeutic, climatic or bathing establishments”. The amount of this tax was fixed at a maximum of 10 lira per person and it was to be used to develop the resort itself.

Undoubtedly, the setting of a visitor tax represents an explicit and unquestionable recognition of the role of the thermal establishments in the local economies, but also a growing awareness of the economic value (for the public finances) of tourism.

This awareness of the economic value of tourism induced the Nitti Government to revise the 1910 legislation and a Commission chaired by Meuccio Ruini was set up to propose new measures which were transformed into law with the DRL of 12 October 1919 which

contained :

• measures to favour hotels which had been damaged during the war,

• a reorganization of the juridical rules regarding the responsibilities of hoteliers,

• the institution of ENIT.

© Société française d’hydrologie et de climatologie médicales, 2009 La Presse thermale et climatique 2009;146:265-272 With a further degree (RDL 19 November 1921) the possibility of imposing a visitor tax on tourists (which in the 1910 law was limited to thermal establishments) was extended to all municipalities. Further regulations were adopted in the Fascist period in 1926 (an additional tax) and in 1938 (a tax on music and a contribution at health spas).

The visitor tax was cancelled by a law passed in 1983, because it was considered contradictory with the need to promote the arrival of tourists, but it has reappeared in municipal balance sheets since the Jubileum of 2000, as a source of revenue for local governments following the cuts to local financing found in recent national budgets.

There has been a growing awareness over the 1990s of the widespread value both of thermal cures for physical health and personal wellbeing and also for the development of tourism of a location. And the public-private dialogue has grown : in the public with specific measures and policies on several levels and in the private with new incentives and the Federation’s proactive role in favouring the development of opportunities for the evolution of thermalism, with all its positive effects, both direct and indirect [8].

Federterme today : Water is life, water is the future As it celebrates its 90th anniversary Federterme must keep in mind it roots and respect them to better understand the present and build a successful future of personal satisfaction, but also of solidarity, all this in a complex scenario, rich in continual and rapid changes in its frame of reference.

In particular there are some determining elements and both new and less new areas

where it and its members are working :

• a permanent dialogue with central and local institutions to valorize the role of thermal enterprises in improving health and thermal wellbeing, but also thermal tourism [9] ;

• protecting of the role of thermalism in the national system of welfare and the establishment (in collaboration with Health Officials) of Essential Assistance Levels (LEA) ;

• the adoption by the EU of a directive for thermalism to guarantee shared and common quality standards as well as the free circulation of patients under treatment (in agreement with MEPs) ;

• the valorization of experimental results and research financed by the Foundation for Thermal Scientific Research and of specific training (information found in the report the Foundation presented at CNEL (National Economic and Labour Council) in July 2008) ;

• a new awareness of the value of water as the source of life and as a necessary precondition for future development (the day for Italian Thermal Baths at the Italian Pavilion at EXPO Zaragoza 2008 which was dedicated to water). Promoting knowledge among the young of the fundamental value of water, in particular for those who do not have enough ;

• new virtuous behaviour by thermal enterprises that have approved the European Manifesto for Thermalism (at the 2nd World Thermal Forum in November 2008 at Abano) ;

Press Therm Climat 2009;146:265-272

• a renewed and strengthened collaboration on shared objectives with ANCOT (National Association of Thermal Municipalities) for a reduction of various taxes (real estate and waste disposal).

In its awareness of working to contribute to the health and wellness of the people the Federterme enterprise system has suggested to the Federation that it promote awareness through internal and external information and communication programmes, paper based, in periodicals such as “Acque e Terme” and “Terme e Riviere”, and through its website www.federterme.it.

As future employees will be created in the universities and research centres, relations with them must be maintained. It is there that the young will train for positions in thermal establishments [10].

The new Federation for Curative Thermal Waters in contemporary Italy The current legal and organisational structure of Federterme was reached after an evolutionary process which started on August 20th, 1944, before the end of World War II.

Ambrogio Michetti pushed for and got a founding act and the adoption of the statutes of the Italian Mineral Water Association.

In the Constitution of the Republic of December 27th, 1947, the Federation has its base in Articles 1 and 41 (work and private enterprise) and also in 9, 32 and 117 ; in Article 9 in which the Republic promotes the development of culture and scientific research ; in Article 32 in which health is protected as a fundamental right of the individual and in the interests of the collectivity and it guarantees free health services to the poor ; in Article 117 in which the Regions are called on to issue rules regarding mineral water and thermal baths (and in the following Article 118 with the administrative functions on the subject).

Federterme is a designated negotiator and together with the national trade unions it draws up the national collective agreement between the employers and thermal workers.

It participated in founding both a complementary pension fund “Fondo Marco Polo” (in

2001) and the setting up of the National Bilateral Thermal Agency in July 2005.

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