Renowned all over the world for its spas, as well as for being the capital of the "Miss Italy" beauty contest, Salsomaggiore Terme is a municipality in the Province of Parma, which has about 20,000 inhabitants. In addition to its thermal resources, Salsomaggiore is also a reference from an architectural point of view, due to the presence of:
- numerous Art Nouveau buildings, such as the "Lorenzo Berzieri" Spa, the Grand Hôtel des Thermes (the current Congress Palace), and the Grand Hotel Regina;
- a dozen Churches, built between the 5th and 19th centuries, in the urban center and its hamlets;
- a multitude of medieval castles, scattered over the extra-urban area.
Furthermore, Salsomaggiore is home to numerous entertainment, cultural and sport events, such as the tennis (International Tennis Federation calendar) and Bridge Championships (Italian Bridge Gaming Federation calendar).
From dawn to 1900
The Salsomaggiore area is very rich in underground springs of so-called salsobromoiodic water, very rich in iodine, bromine, sulfur and calcium minerals. The Gauls, and then the Romans, exploited these springs for the extraction of a very precious good: salt. At this point, Salsomaggiore enters history and spans the centuries as an object of interest and contention for the noble families who ruled these areas, from the Sforza to the Bourbons.
When the salt extraction, the main income for the local economy, is endangered by the possibility of importing sea salt, the intuition of Dr. Lorenzo Berzieri raises the fortunes of Salsomaggiore: starting from 1839, they owe to him the first therapeutic applications of salsobromoiodic waters, which will continue with Dr. Giovanni Valentini and Dr. Edoardo Porro, who will show its benefits for pregnant women. These treatments will be defined consecration with the Decree of Maria Luigia of Austria, who - in 1847 - started the construction of the first thermal centre. It will be succeeded by other centres, built by other main personalities in the history of Salsomaggiore, such as:
- Marquis Guido Dalla Rosa, who started drilling the first artesian wells, replacing the wells dug by hand for the extraction of salsobromoiodic waters;
- Eng. Giuseppe Magnaghi, who continued the drilling and extraction work started by Marquis Della Rosa, and started a propaganda strategy that opened Salsomaggiore to international tourism.
Some of these centres will not leave a trace, while others will become the symbol of this Municipality, such as the Lorenzo Berzieri Thermal Centre inaugurated in 1923.
Shortly after, luxurious hotels were built to host bathers wishing to take advantage of the thermal benefits: among them, there were the Queen Mother, the Infant of Spain and the former King Constantine of Greece.
In addition, to facilitate arrivals and departures, the first railway transport service between Salsomaggiore and Fidenza was launched on May 5, 1890: a steam locomotive pulls two passenger wagons, and a freight wagon for their luggages. The service remained in operation until the 1930s.
The advent of fascism brings other fundamental works to Salsomaggiore:
- the Berzieri Centre (as already mentioned, in 1923). The construction works begun in 1914 under the guidance of the architects Giulio Bernardini and Ugo Giusti, and stopped during the First World War, to resume under the supervision of the Arch. Giusti alone. Decorated by artist Galileo Chini, the Berzieri Baths were inaugurated on 21 May 1923: immediately, the publications of the time presented them as "the most beautiful baths in the world";
- the Royal Chemical Institute, built behind the Berzieri Baths, on the territory that housed - in the Middle Ages - the salt facilities built by the Farnese family;
- the Porro and Valentini Hotels;
- the Poggio Diana;
- the new railway Station, inaugurated in 1937. Designed by Eng. Cervi in déco style and clad in white and pink travertine marble, the Station is inspired by the Central Station of Milan and is rich in decorations and works dedicated to the benefits of thermal waters.
And also the Second World War, during which the contribution of the Salsomaggiore people to the partisan Resistance against Nazi-Fascism led to the granting of the Bronze Medal for military valor to the Municipality of Salsomaggiore.
After the Second World War, the Salsomaggiore Baths pass under State administration, It’s the so-called "social thermalism" period, the direct State participation in the management of thermal activities through the Ministries or other public Authorities.
In the same years, an elitist tourism was accompanied by an increasingly numerous mass tourism, more and more relevant for the business of spa treatments. To accommodate these new, massive presences, construction work has begun on the Luigi Zoja Thermal Centre, a 5-storey structure completed in 1970, which was built according to the most rigorous architectural criteria and with the best materials available at the time, even if its aesthetics are more sober than the Berzieri Centre.
Starting from the 90s:
- thermal tourism begins to register a progressive decrease;
- the administration of spa facilities passes from state management to local (regional, provincial, municipal) management.
Salsomaggiore adapts to changes.
In 1998, the Wellness Center was opened inside the Berzieri Baths: the Center is open all year round and expands the services offered by the Berzieri Baths, whose activities had always had a seasonal trend.
In 2000, the Zoja Baths Hydrotherapy Center was inaugurated, equipped with a thermal pool for motor rehabilitation and the treatment of vascular diseases.
In 2008, the Salsomaggiore Baths incorporated the Tabiano Baths. From now on, the administration of both facilities is the competence of a single Authority (Terme di Salsomaggiore e Tabiano SpA).
Another reason for tourist attraction is Salsomaggiore's role as the capital of the national beauty contest "Miss Italia", held here since 1950 and until 2010. The most famous names in the Italian show business alternate as presenters, guests and judges on the contest days. Among the Misses elected in Salsomaggiore are the stars who started their artistic career right here, from Sophia Loren to Miriam Leone.