Friday, 22 February 2008

Thermal Baths of Saturnia, Tuscany

A few years ago, my boyfriend and I, along with another couple, rented a two bedroom cottage, just outside of the ancient Roman settlement of Saturnia, Tuscany. We enjoyed an assortment of meats, cheeses and wine, and welcomed the New Year with champagne. At 12:30, the guys told us to grab our swimsuits ... we were going for a drive. As much as I enjoy surprises, I was a little apprehensive about driving off into the Tuscan countryside and going for a dip in the middle of the night in some unknown body of water. But I played along.

Our destination was a gravel parking lot. A group of people wearing robes and towels ran by us, laughing as they rushed to their car to get warm. This was good enough for me - I bravely got out of the car, wearing only my bathing suit and Birkenstocks. My boyfriend lit a candle and held my hand as he led me down a slippery, mud-covered path. Five minutes later, I found myself in one of at least a dozen small pools of light greenish-blue water. The ambient temperature was comfortable but cool, making the warm water feel like a soothing, hot bath. Small, marble-like stones, polished by erosion, danced around our feet as we sipped a glass of champagne under the moonlit Tuscan sky. That night was a unique and special experience, one that I will never forget.

According to local legend, the thermal baths were created when the God of Saturn became angry with human beings because they were constantly at war with one another. In his anger, he hurled a lightning bolt down to earth to pacify the humans, causing hot, sulphurous waters from below the earth’s crust to pour up onto the surface. Today, the water temperature remains constant at 37 degrees Celsius, or 98.5 degree Fahrenheit, year round. It is thought to possess therapeutic and healing qualities.

The locals tend to frequent the thermal baths during early hours of the morning, just before dawn. This is advisable if you prefer privacy, as the baths tend to get somewhat crowded during the day. As an alternative to the natural thermal baths, tourists can also visit the luxurious Terme di Saturnia, a four star spa and golf resort. For more information about the hotel, visit .

If you prefer to experience the natural springs without paying, I suggest driving to Saturnia and spending the day. Saturnia is in southern Tuscany, about an hour and a half drive from Rome. While you are there, you might want to stop at a great little restaurant called “I Due Cippi da Michele Ristorante”, located in Piazza V. Veneto 26/A, in the main square of Saturnia (Tel. +39/05.6460.1074).

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