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Ancient Baths - Renewed Spirits

Ginda Simpson

Bagno Vignoni in Tuscany

Oh, my aching bones, my sagging spirits. Time to take the "cure," do as the Romans did, and the Etruscans before them. The cure begins with the journey itself - a road that traverses undulating fields of wheat, vineyards, olive groves and verdant hills where green-black cypresses stand tall. It is a visual treasure chest accentuated this early summer morning by dazzling yellow broom and brilliant red poppies scattered along the roadside like precious gems dropped extravagantly by some benevolent prince.

Painting of Bagno Vignoni by Ginda Simpson, 2004

Painting of Bagno Vignoni by Ginda Simpson, 2004

The thermal baths of Bagno Vignoni, enjoyed by the Romans who consecrated these waters to the Nymphs, became even more popular during the Middle Ages, thanks to their proximity to Via Francigena, an important thoroughfare connecting Northern Europe to the Italian Peninsula. From the 12th century and throughout the 13th century, Bagno Vignoni became a stopover point for Christian pilgrims traveling this route on their way to Rome. Bagno Vignoni is described in a document dating back to 1334 as a "thermal spa arranged and surrounded by buildings and taverns with a chapel in the middle. It has a very beautiful square layout, with the spring divided in two parts and a roof for protecting the infirm." This pool, no longer used by the public, is a massive basin of steamy water, which forms the main piazza, creating an element of pleasurable surprise. Warm reflections of stone buildings, tiled roofs and potted geraniums dance across its surface to delight the visitor.

"Oh, Nymphs living in these vapors, liberating the eternal fire among the waves, restoring life to those who suffer, I salute you and gift you with copious waters. Spring forth and bring health to the infirm, and to the healthy, a sweet bath. For both, we will be grateful."

This text, inscribed on a stone tablet in Ancient Greek, was placed under the arcade of Santa Caterina, dedicating these thermal waters to the Nymphs of fountains and rivers, daughters of Zeus.

Original thermal baths in the town center

Original thermal baths in the town center

Today, these thermal baths are operated by the Township of San Quirico d'Orcia and offer a wide range of therapies, including mud baths, for various degenerative forms of arthritis and rheumatism. Supported by the national health care system of Italy and staffed by trained personnel, this establishment offers patients specific treatments as prescribed by their physicians. In addition, other treatments are available without a doctor's prescription including reflexology, Shiatsu and many types of massage.

For those seeking rest and relaxation, the Hotel Posta Marcucci offers unparalleled hospitality. The Marcucci family have been inhabitants of Bagno Vignoni since the 1700's, a claim made that much more meaningful by the fact that the population of the town is only 36! In the 1800's, few families lived in the village - mostly farm workers or men who worked at the travertine quarries or at the grain mills powered by the geothermal springs. Visitors to this rural area of exceptional beauty were rare as unpaved roads made travel difficult. The Marcucci family operated a small inn with ten rooms and a tiny store. Then in the 1950's, Grandpa Marcucci dug up his vineyard and began construction of what is now the main hotel. Grandma's cooking drew guests from the area and eventually from afar. It was Aunt Licia's idea to create the swimming pool using the mildly sulfurous geothermal waters of Bagno Vignoni. The large pool was dug from the hillside and has always been a major attraction of their hotel. Guests can swim in the comforting waters, bask in the warmth of the sun and look out over a captivating landscape, a magic potion of beauty and silence that heals the soul.

Thermal pool at Hotel Posta Marcucci

Thermal pool at Hotel Posta Marcucci

As I drive back through the Tuscan hills and valleys towards my home, it is hard to believe I have only been gone 24 hours. I have soaked my limbs in the thermal waters, enjoyed a delicious meal with a hearty Chianti, and slept the sleep of the innocent. Like many before me, including St. Catherine of Siena and Lorenzo the Magnificent, I have been immersed in the healing springs of serenity and feel renewed. Did I mention the soul-satisfying views?

How to reach Bagno Vignoni

Bagno Vignoni is approximately 50 kilometers south of Siena in Tuscany. It can be reached by car traveling on the Via Cassia, leaving Siena by the Porta Romana or by taking the Siena Sud exit on the by-pass. Follow signs for S. Quirico d'Orcia, then signs for Bagno Vignoni. The nearest international airport is Florence.

Accommodations

Hotel Posta Marcucci
Via Ara Ureca, 43, Bagno Vignoni, 53027 San Quirico d'Orcia (SI), tel: 0577-887-112, fax: 0577-887-119, www.hotelpostamarcucci.it
Rates per person: B&B 90 euros, half-board 99,50 euros, slightly higher rates for weekends and holidays, open year round (day passes available for the hot springs pools)

Albergo Le Terme
Bagno Vignoni, 53027 S. Quirico d'Orcia, tel: 0577-887-150, fax: 0577-997-497, www.albergoterme.it
Rates per person: B&B 49 euros, half-board 59 euros, slightly higher rates for weekends and holidays, closed from the end of November to end of December

For thermal treatments

Stabilimento Termale di Bagno Vignoni
Piazza del Moretto 32, Bagno Vignoni, 53027 San Quirico d'Orcia (SI), tel/fax: 39-0577-887-365, e-mail: bagnovignoniterme@tin.it
The establishment is open from June through October.

Restaurants

Osteria del Leone
Piazza del Moretto, tel/fax: 39-0577-887-300, www.illeone.com
Open for lunch and dinner, closed Mondays. The young chef, Andrea Bazzani offers a varied menu of local specialties, changing according to the season.

Resources

www.bagnovignoni.it: For tourist information, tel: 39-0577-888-975

For more information on other hot springs, see Pauline's page on Hot Springs in Tuscany.

About the Author

Ginda Simpson is an American artist/writer now living in the Umbrian countryside. It has been said of her work, "her paintings tell stories, her stories paint pictures." For more information, please visit www.gindasimpson.com.


© Ginda Simpson, 2004

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