Tuscany's Wild Spas
Tuscany isn’t known for it’s thermal hot springs in the same way that, say, Japan is. Maybe it’s the warm climate, but Tuscany’s natural hot springs can be a bit overlooked. But this is ridiculous, just because Tuscany has a lot of other amazing attractions (and weather) is no reason to overlook the beauty and uniqueness of it’s many thermal springs.
Tuscany’s many hot springs have been in use since the Etruscens and have been ascribed all kinds of healing powers. The sulphur in the water is, allegedly, good for the skin, and the more pungent it is the softer it is supposed to leave you. A lot of these hot springs are now used by spas and hotels (some of which are fabulous) but others remain as wild now (and free) as they were 2000 years ago. The smell of sulphur is pretty strong so I’d recommend taking an old swimsuit rather than your best togs.
San Filippo has some amazing formations made from a build up of calcareous sediments, they make it look almost otherworldly. The first pools you will come too are smaller and cooler than those further in so it’s worth a bit of a walk. There is a paid spa just above if that’s your thing. Watch out for the ‘White Whale’ formation, a spectacular waterfall named for it’s resemblance to a whale’s mouth, the water here can get pretty hot though - so be careful! Here you can also feel thermal mud, it’s a whole spa treatment in the woods.
Bagno Vignoni is pretty unique, there’s a thermal pool in the town square! However, they appreciate you not jumping in so try the Parco dei Mulini instead. The spa was located along a popular pilgrim route which made it famous in the Middle Ages, attracting visitors such as Pope Pio II Piccolomini and Lorenzo il Magnifico.
Not far from San Galgano Abbey in the Terre di Siena is Petriolo. The waters here are a pretty consistent, and pretty cozy, 42 0C. You can also enjoy the luxury Spa and beauty centre or the new spa center which offers massage, beauty and health treatments. The pools along the River Farma are free though and set in beautiful woodland. Roman tombs have recently been found in the area but the real high point for these baths was during the Middle Ages and Renaissance when they were visited by Pope Pious II Piccolomini and the Medicis. There are also the only existing remains of a fortified thermal bath dating from 1404.
Saturnia, as you might guess from the name, has an origin rooted in myth. Legend has it that Saturn threw a lightning bolt at the earth and from the spot it struck, calming waters flowed. It’s a wonderful story, even without the picturesque waterfalls and shelves of temperate, 37 oc, water. There is also a luxury spa if you don’t mind splashing some cash.
Bagni di Lucca
One of the most famous resorts in Italy the Bagni di Lucca have played to host to notables such as Byron, Shelley, Dumas and Queen Margaret. The name Bagni di Lucca actually signifies a whole collection of villages with thermal spas in the Lima Valley. Fornoli is home to the Bagni di Lucca railway station, but the easiest way to reach the baths is by train.
Bagni Caldi, which had two natural waters, the Grotta Grande and the Grotta Paolina, which was named after Napoleon's sister, one of the most notable residents of the Bagni di Lucca. Lord Byron and Henry James were also visitors and the waters are said to be useful for treating rheumatism and stress. I don’t know about rheumatism but whiling away a few hours here could certainly reduce your stress levels.