Free, natural and serenely beautiful, Tuscany’s thermal water baths make for an ideal weekend trip. Spring is a good time to visit, when the air is still fresh so plunging into steaming water is thoroughly enjoyable. Hours can be spent soaking, trying out the skin-softening mud on the pool beds, and hazily admiring the Tuscan landscape through the steam clouds.
These are natural spas, meaning there are no changing rooms, no bathrooms and no bar (thank goodness!). Make sure you bring towels, flip-flops and trainers (for the stoney ground which is painful with bare feet!) and any provisions you might need like water or food. Be prepared to get changed afterwards in your car or behind a tree. Some might prefer the pristine cleanliness and innumerable facilities of paid spas, but if you want to experience true relaxation you need to go a bit primitive.
Remember that thermal water stains jewellery, so remove any previous pieces to avoid them tarnishing!
1.Parco dei Mulini, Bagno Vignoni
This spa town features a very unusual central piazza. While St Mark’s Piazza in Venice does have the occasional flooding, Bagno Vignoni can boast the rare feature of a thermal water pool instead of a piazza! The central ‘square’, flanked by charming rustic stone buildings, has a large steamy pool in the centre. Although this pool is not for swimming, the thermal water is directed through channels to an outcrop of rock, from which it cascades down into a small pool below where bathing is permitted.
At the top of the cliff the hot water runs in several channels in which visitors can bath their feet. Locals come here too as a regular activity, and chat on their mobiles or with friends while they dangle their feet in the streams. In this rocky area there are also the remains of ancient mills.
To reach the bathing pool below the cliff there is a steep stoney path through undergrowth, so trainers rather than flip-flops are advised for this part. The pool is relatively small, and doesn’t have much space around for leaving clothes or bags so take the minimum.
The opaque light blue pool sits beneath a pale rocky waterfall, and children clamber up the face to shower under the stream. The water is tepid, having travelled all the way from the central square, but still pleasant if the sun is shining. The pool is shallow, and the squishy mud on the bed is perfect for a make-shift spa treatment!
Via del Gorello, 42, 53027 Bagno Vignoni SI, Italy
2.Cascate del Mulino, Saturnia
These are certainly the most well-known hot springs in Tuscany, and as such can be quite busy. Once a mill, the hot water gushes out from beside a quaint little building, and tumbles down a series of white terraced pools. Aesthetically it is magnificent, an example of the serendipitous meeting of natural elements to form something more beautiful than anything man-made!
Rather unintentionally, during my visit I discovered the perfect moment during the day to bathe. Foolishly not having pre-booked accommodation, we found ourselves sleeping in the car for a night. Woken by the early morning light, we headed to Saturnia at about 5.30 in the morning, and were lavishly rewarded with a pale pink sunrise streaking the hot pools with orange and fuchsia, and sharing the moment with a few elderly locals who arrived in their dressing gowns equipped with camping stools. We returned later in the day and while the experience was still a wonderful novelty, the serene paradise we had seen that morning had vanished.
Saturnia’s pools are quite extensive and there is a lot of space around for kids to play and explore, so it’s easy to spend more time here than in Bagno Vignoni. Since they have become more popular a small bar with toilets and showers have been installed, but don’t imagine it’s anything luxurious!
Via della Follonata, 58014 Saturnia, Manciano GR, Italy
Website in English and Italian
3.Fosso Bianco, Bagni di San Filippo
These hot springs are the most memorable for several reasons: their continual surprises, the temperature of the water, their sheer beauty and the lack of visitors. I imagine the relatively small number of bathers was due to the fact that these Bagni are quite hard to find, and require a bit of effort to reach. From the car park there is a still a 10-15 minute walk to the first area of pools, and further paths through the woods to reach other areas. Sensible shoes are recommended here too.
These bagni are extensive, comprising a series of pools and white cliffs formed from the calcium deposits of the cascading water. They lie in a wooded valley, giving them a more exclusive, secluded atmosphere. The first few pools reached after descending into the woods are the hottest, and the ones where bathing is permitted. The temperature of the water is like a hot bath, meaning even on chilly days you could bath comfortably there. We saw candles around the pool edge suggesting those in the know also visit at night!
A place out of a fairy tale, hot springs and white cliffs hidden in the woods: la balena bianca dei Bagni di San Filippo. . . . . . . . #tuscanybuzz #lovefromtuscany #livethelittlethings #toscana_amoremio #volgotoscana #onholidayinitaly #underthetuscansun #beautifulmatters #thatsdarling #pursuepretty #flashesofdelight #livecolorfully #livethelittlethings #italiainunoscatto #prettylittleitaly #charmingitaly #italymagazine #browsingitaly #pursuepretty #flashesofdelight #passionpassport #italy_stop #italia360gradi #italy_hidden_gems #terme #hotsprings #bagnidisanfilippo
But a visit to these baths shouldn’t stop there. Follow the signs to the Balena bianca, and emerging from the trees you’ll discover what look like a frozen white waterfall, cascading eternally in different shades of cream, pale pink and orange. Yet another lies a short walk away, and at its base are pale blue pools and waterfalls. These woods are like a fairytale forest, hiding some of the most unusual and spectacular natural beauty of Tuscany. Understandably to protect such precious beauty bathing and climbing on the rocks is not allowed. Indeed we saw a couple of police officers coming round to check, so be careful if you try bathing in this part. But don’t forget your camera!
53023 Bagni San Filippo, Province of Siena, Italy
Website in English and Italian
Una cascata perenne 😍 . . . . . . . #italiainunoscatto #italiaonthego #prettylittleitaly #charmingitaly #mycornerofitaly #weloveitaly #passionpassport #italymagazine #browsingitaly #italy_stop #italia360gradi #pursuepretty #italy_hidden_gems #flashesofdelight #tuscanybuzz #lovefromtuscany #livethelittlethings #italy_illife #loves_madeinitaly #toscana_amoremio #volgotoscana #thehub_italia #onholidayinitaly #underthetuscansun #Terme #bagnidisanfilippo #slowtravel