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Hot Springs in Tuscany
Southern Tuscany, in the area around Monte Amiata, has many natural hot springs. In most towns with natural hot springs, there is a modern spa where they bring the hot springs water into a swimming pool. Some of these spas are outdoors and open only in summer; others are more medical type spas that are indoors and open all year.
There is a tradition throughout Europe of having spas built near natural springs. These spas are large facilities, more "medical" than spa-like. In some countries, one or two weeks a year in a spa is covered in the national health plan. A visit to one of these spas starts with a doctor's visit and then activities are prescribed based on your condition. The spas always have a large pool of the natural spring water. There is usually a restaurant. They are set up so you can spend your whole day there.
The bigger spa towns in Tuscany are Montecatini Terme, near Florence, and Chianciano Terme, near Chiusi. These are both interesting towns, but are not places where you as a tourist would spend much time. Towns based around a large spa facility have a distinct feeling to them - you know when you are in one - lots of hotels and restaurants, older people out strolling at night, lots of activity. A friend of mine spent two weeks near Chianciano Terme and he and his friends called it "the old lady town". (The upside: you will find excellent linens shops in these towns.)
In the US a comparable type of place is Hot Spring, Arkansas, where the town has several spas that are run much as they were 50 years ago.
But in Italy some spas are changing and becoming more like the day spas we are used to in the US. You don't need a doctor's prescription and you sign up for a day of massage, body treatment and time in the natural hot springs pool. These are a few of them in southern Tuscany:
Spas can be seasonal in Italy. Some close for the winter. Those based around outdoor natural springs pool are usually only open May - September.
Natural Hot Springs
In many towns with natural hot springs there is also some place where you can get at the hot springs for free. We like these springs because they are out in the woods and more natural. These are popular with Italians and tourists and are sometimes a bit too popular (crowded), like the ones near Saturnia. The ones we have been to are described in more detail on this page.
Outdoor hot springs near Saturnia in southern Tuscany
The road map for a particular province (Carta della Provincia) marks the hot springs.
Siena Province Hot Springs
The Siena Province map marks them as follows:
hot springs (sorgenti calde) - bull's-eye icon
I found these hot springs marked on the map:
Florence Province Thermal Pools and Spas
The Florence Province map marks them as follows:
thermal pool (terme) - picture of a fountain
These places look like some type of springs, but the map does not indicate if they are hot or cold:
These places are spas:
Other Tuscany Provinces
The Arezzo and Pisa Provincia maps do not mark hot springs, probably because there are none. I do not have the Provincia map for the region around Saturnia, but Saturnia has both hot springs outside the town (see description below) and a spa.
Hot springs areas in other provinces of Tuscany:
Hot Springs in Southern Tuscany - Details
There is a modern hot springs spa outside of town, but we found the old stone baths at the edge of town. The water is hot and full of minerals and it is not as crowded as the modern spa. We last visited these springs in September 2002.
Directions: Find the tourist office on the main street of the old part of town, just up from the Caffe and Ristorante Daniela. Just downhill from the tourist office there is a wide staircase that goes downhill through the town. Follow this staircase which leads to a gravel path all the way down the hill to the valley below (a 10 minute walk). When you reach the gravel road at the bottom, turn right to get to the Bagno Grande.
Recommended Restaurant: Ristorante Daniela, Piazza Matteotti 7, center of town. Closed Wednesdays. This is an expensive, but very good restaurant. Also an excellent caffe.
San Casciano dei Bagni, outdoor hot springs
On the edge of the small town of Bagno Vignoni there is a stone culvert where the hot water runs. You take off your shoes and put your feet in. We did this after a long hike and it was great. The water is very hot and full of minerals. Frances Mayes writes about this place in her second book "Bella Tuscany". We last visited these springs in September 2002.
Directions: From the parking lot on the edge of town walk straight with the historic part of town on your right. You will see the stone culvert running from the historic part of town to the edge of the cliff.
Recommended Restaurant: La Bottega di Cacio, Bagno Vignoni, open: 10:30-19:30, closed Thursday. This is a sandwich place with a nice area to sit outside under the trees.
Bagno Vignoni, outdoor hot springs
Note: I heard in 2002 that these springs were no longer running because the water had been diverted to the town resort.
The very small town of Bagni San Filippo has a hot spring that feeds into a river. We walked up and down the river and could only find cold water. We were about to give up when a group of Germans arrived and went into the river. We followed. It turns out that the hot water flows down this white rock (formed by the minerals from the water) and if you climb up the rock (easy to do) there are little pockets that catch the hot water and you can sit there.
At one point, I, Steve and a young German woman were crammed together into a little puddle about three feet wide and only a foot deep, with water cascading down the rock and onto us. The communication went like this: me - "Good!", Steve - "Good!", German woman - "Gut!". The water is warm and almost milky in color from the minerals.
Directions: The road through Bagni San Filippo is one way. There is parking along the side of the road. The entrance to the park where the hot springs are located is on your right, just before the town starts. Follow the path into the park, go on a small bridge over the river and turn left. Follow the path along the river until you see the huge white rock formation. This is where you go in. Remember, the lower pools are cold water. Climb up the rock to get to the hot pools.
Drive to Saturnia and have lunch at I Due Cippi da Michele (one of our favorite restaurants). Walk around Saturnia (see the Roman arch with remnants of the original Roman road). Then drive to the hot springs and relax in the flowing hot water. Wonderful! We last visited these springs in 2000. (See photo of these springs above.)
Directions: From Saturnia, drive out of town. At the main road, turn right. The big spa will be on your left. Just past the entrance to the spa, on your left, you will see a hot river running through the field. Some people stop and swim here. Continue down the main road until it makes a sharp turn to the left. The hot springs waterfall is located on your right at this corner. Take the dirt road in and then turn right into a big parking area. Park in a field and then walk to the river. You have to change beside your car, but everyone does this.
Recommended Restaurant: I Due Cippi da Michele, Piazza V. Veneto 26/a, Saturnia. Closed Tuesday. A good restaurant with nice outdoor seating on the main piazza.
I have not been to these springs but people on the message board have reported that they are great. The springs are just off the main road from Siena to Grosseto, about half way. Check your road atlas for the location.
I am collecting my list of interesting sounding hot springs or spa towns and keep them on this page to remind me to plan trips to them. We have not been to these places.
Salsomaggiore Terme, Emilia Romagna - The Cadogen Italy guide mentions Salsomaggiore Terme (Big Saltiness) near Fidenza, west of Parma - "the largest and best known of a cluster of saline water spas specializing in arthritic and rheumatic cures". It was popular with Italian royalty and is now popular with opera singers. The baths are in Terme Berzieri.
Tabiano Bagni, Emilia Romagna - Also in the Cadogen Italy guide. "Stinky sulphur springs." Just south of Salsomaggiore.
Ischia, Campania - There are several hot springs resorts on the island of Ischia, off Naples.
www.slowtrav.com/photos/showgallery.php?cat=590: Slow Travel photos of Tuscany hot springs
Slow Travel Italy - Maps for Driving: Information on road maps (Carta della Provincia)
Slow Travel Italy - Bagno Vignoni: Ancient Baths - Renewed Spirits
www.casinadirosa.it: Read about the Petriolo Hot Springs on this website for a vacation rental in this area.
www.termeitaliane.com: Thermal Spa trade association with lists of spas in Europe.
www.spas.it: Web site in Italian with spa information for Italy. Click on "Le Terme" for a list of spas by region. (site not working March 2005)
www.chiancianoterme.com: Chianciano Terme Spa. Information on other spas in the area.
www.termemontepulciano.it: Terme di Montepulciano
www.chianciano.it: Web site in Italian. Information about these spas: Terme di Chianciano SpA, Terme Sorgente Sant'Elena SpA, Terme di Montepulciano, Terme di San Casciano dei Bagni SpA
www.termedisaturnia.com: Terme di Saturnia
www.hotelpostamarcucci.it: Hotel Post Marcucci in Bagno Vignoni offers day passes to its hot springs pools.
www.termedisancascianobagni.it: Terme di San Casciano dei Bagni. Open summer only. (site not working March 2005)
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