Everything You Need to Know About the Hot Springs in Tuscany
Home to some of the country’s best-known tourist-spots, Tuscany is a region in central Italy with a reputation for stunning landscapes, intriguing history and fine art. Its most prominent cities include Florence, the capital of the region, Pisa, Lucca and Siena. Versilia, Maremma and Chianti are also very popular tourist destinations.
Regarded as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Tuscany’s strong cultural and linguistic identity has seen it be referred to as a ‘nation within a nation’. Many influential figures from the worlds of Science and Art have, at some time, called Tuscany their home. Within the region, seven localities have been listed as World Heritage Sites and there are over 120 protected nature reserves.
With a population of just under four million, Tuscany has a fantastic balance of bustling, fast-paced cities and calm, laid-back areas ideal for relaxing. It has seas rated by many among the best in the country, while vast areas are made up of hilly grounds. The temperature varies greatly depending on the time of year, and the climate is also very different between the coastal areas and parts of the region that are found inland.
As its reputation as a major tourist destination goes from strength to strength, visitors are being increasingly drawn in by the regions hot springs. The most perfect way to relax, the hot springs provide the perfect companion for all other attractions in the area.
When to Visit Tuscany
Like many parts of Italy, Tuscany has varied weather throughout the year and this affects many factors that may decide when the best time to travel for you is.
At its hottest, Tuscany can reach 30°C in July and August, while lows can drop to around 3°C from December through to February. Layers are the order of the day during these months, though there are still advantages to travelling at this time.
The high season in the region runs from June to mid-September. Airfares and accommodation will be at their most expensive and the crowds at their largest. Temperatures soar and the weather is at its finest, though it is important to consider whether that may be too hot. Visits during the high season are most suited to spending time on the glorious beaches the region has to offer and only limited times exploring the beautiful cities. It is also important to bear in mind that many Italians take an annual two-week break at some point during these months and many restaurants and local shops may close for business.
The region has a strong tradition of producing great wines and the weather creates perfect conditions cultivating grapes. Chianti wine (any wine produced in the Chianti region) has developed a world-wide reputation and draws in many visitors each year, some who comes specifically on Italian wine tasting holidays, touring the vineyards all over the country. The fashion, textiles and mining industries are of great importance to the area and, alongside tourism, drive the region’s economy.
The shoulder seasons, considered March to May and mid-September to November will see fewer tourists and therefore smaller crowds. The weather is comfortable through these times, with average highs ranging from the mid-teens to the mid-twenties. Spring brings pretty flowers to the fields, while the autumn season sees foliage, grape and olive harvests prosper. Cooler evenings make layers and appropriate packing essential, but the increased chance of seeing all of your favourite sights make these times a fantastic option.
For a traveller on a budget, the winter season, December to February (apart from Christmas time) poses a really good option for travelling to the region. Few tourists visit at this time, so crowds are practically non-existent, and airfares and accommodation at the very lowest you will find them. This may impact the activities that you choose to do but, as snow is unlikely, smart preparation still makes this a good time to travel, albeit lacking in certain privileges that come with other seasons such as the weather.
Hot Springs in Tuscany
Tuscany is blessed with many natural hot springs right across the region, from the north right down to the south. Many are now featured with hotel complexes, resorts and spas where treatments are available, but many also remain free to the public and provide an authentic treat for those lucky enough to discover them. The perfect place to pamper yourself at any time of year, hot springs are ideal for taking a well-deserved break from the rush, or a beautiful spot to relax and appreciate the rich history and geographical features that have brought them to us today.
Unique in their surroundings, the hot springs at Petriolo date back to the Roman times and are surrounded by a natural landscape that is begging to be explored. Take a full day to hike through the dense trees and visit the Basso Merse Nature Reserve a short distance away, before taking a dip and submerging in the warm waters.
With temperatures of around 43°C, the thermal waters are free to use all year round. Due to their location, around four kilometres from the nearest public transport route and away from the usual tourist hotspots, they are rarely crowded. Springs gush down into a series of smaller baths before finishing in one bigger pool.
The Petriolo hot springs are well known for the hydrogen sulphide in their waters making them rich in salts. This has given them a reputation as being therapeutic and a place to rest up aching muscles and improve skin. The perfect remedy after a day of exploring fabulous nature!
One of the best-known locations for thermal baths in Tuscany, Bagno Vignoni is famous for its Roman pool located in the main square and surrounded by architecturally and historically intriguing buildings. Set in Siena, the richest area for thermal baths in Tuscany, the Bagno Vignoni pools are among the oldest in the region.
Set in the heart of Val d’Orcia Park, Bagno Vignoni’s reputation attracts large swathes of visitors each year. That reputation was founded upon Roman beliefs that the waters, flowing at a temperature of around 49°C, had healing powers. Famous visitors have included Pope Pius II and Saint Catherine of Siena.
While you cannot bathe in the pool in the main square, the natural hot waters of nearby Parco dei Mulini offer the chance for visitors to appreciate the stunning surroundings for no charge. Here, you can relax in the waters and soak up the history of the place, with thoughts of the many people who have been on pilgrimages to the area in search of healing, or as a stop-off on their journey to Rome.
Bagni di San Filippo
Also found in the heart of Val d’Orcia Park, the waters of San Filippo can be found just a half-hour away from Bagno Vignoni and have a similar past. They too were known by the Romans and have been frequented by famous people through time, including Princes of the Medici family.
The baths are found in the forest and have the options of a pool carved into the rock, or a mud bath accessed across a small bridge. The hot spring is small and contains calcium carbonate deposits, which form white concretions and waterfalls. The name Balena Bianca (White Whale) is often used to refer to the pool. The water here is always warm and is used by locals and nearby spas for treatments.
Italy’s best-known hot springs can be found in the Tuscany region in Saturnia. About an hour south of Siena, the area is covered by woodland, valleys and fields. Warm waters seep through the Earth’s crust, and Roman legend has it that the God of Saturn had a hand in this when he lost his temper.
Now a spa town, there is a misconception that the thermal waters are part of a spa resort. They are, in fact, freely available to the public every day of the year. If you want to avoid crowds, or even have the place all to yourself, it is best to head down early in the morning.
Rich in minerals and high in sulphur, the waters are fairly consistent at a pleasant 37°C. The waters instantly get to work in easing aches and healing pains, while the sulphur alongside the carbon and calcium in the waters is beneficial for people with skin conditions. Available and beautiful all year round, the warm temperatures will be highly appreciated in winter, while in summer, the nearby River Albegna will help to cool you down.
San Casciano die Bagni
A commune in Siena, San Casciano dei Bagni’s history is intricately linked to the presence of hot waters in the area with around 42 springs. Original, Roman age pools made from stones are still found there and visitors can soak in 40°C water that is rich in calcium, fluorine and magnesium.
Spacious gardens make the waters a fantastic place to visit at any time, especially summer when you can lounge on the grass and take in the sun, or have a family picnic. However, the waters are at their very best during Autumn.
Found between Val d’Orcia and Valdichiana, Chianciano Terme is a commune in Siena with a history dating back to the 5th Century BC. At this time, a temple was built to the god of good health by the Etruscans. They were known for having curative powers during Roman times and were even visited by the Roman lyric poet Horace on the advice of his physician. So impressive was the area, that luxurious Roman villas were built close to the thermal baths to give some of the more important members of society easy access to them.
Over many years, the hot springs have developed a reputation among Italians for curing liver problems. Nowadays, many other treatments are also available in the area making it not just an attraction for people seeking hot springs, but guests looking for an overall wellbeing break away.
Lying among the hills in Lunigiana, there is the small village of Equi Terme with a reputation and history that reaches back to the Roman times. Found beside one of the most awe-inspiring peaks of the Apuan Alps, whose marble core is the origin of the waters, the Terme di Equi baths are known for their healing and restorative capabilities, with past visitors heading there to assist with respiratory issues, bone and joint complaints and skin problems.
An off-the-beaten-path location and lesser-known among tourists, a visit here is likely to be a cultural experience as well as a historical one. To add to the experience, you can take in a nearby archaeological park, or one of many medieval castles still standing in the area.
The beauty of these places speak for themselves and the relaxing, soothing and lasting impact they can have on your body and mind make hot springs a must-do during your visit to Tuscany. But if you’ve never been before, there are a few mistakes that can easily be made. Fortunately, here are a few handy tips to get you ahead of the game.
What to Wear
When you are heading somewhere as picturesque as these stunningly scenic places, it can be tempting to dress in your favourite clothes or swimwear ready for that perfect social media snap. One word of warning: don’t!
Although beautiful and natural, many of the waters have natural elements in them and they can be very strongly scented. No matter how many times you wash that swimming costume that has been bathed in sulphurous water, the smell will always be there. Instead, where an older costume that you don’t mind using only in natural pools from this point on, and remember just how good those waters are for your body, so no need to worry.
It is also always worth checking beforehand whether the waters you are going to have changing facilities. As many of the hot springs listed above are both free and away from the main towns, a place to change is not a given.
What to Take
As many of the locations mentioned above are natural areas and free to the public, avoid taking valuables if there isn’t going to be someone around outside of the waters to watch them for you. The same goes for other belongings, although if you are going outside of the summer months, you will likely need some warmer clothes to put on after as well as a towel for drying yourself off. Suncream is a good idea at any time of year, but is essential during the summer and shoulder months.
Learn the History
Italy as a whole and Tuscany especially have rich and fascinating histories. Many of the hot springs in the region have an intriguing story too, and it is well worth reading up about them before you go. From use during Roman times, to stories of Roman gods, famous visitors and healing powers, each hot spring in the Tuscan region is unique and provides a very different experience for those lucky enough to go.
Planning Your Visit
Depending on the time of year you are visiting Tuscany, you may want to carefully consider what time of day you head to the springs. If you are visiting in summer for example, but don’t like big crowds, make sure you head down earlier in the day. At other times of the year, visitors are fewer in number and you are more likely to have a peaceful experience.
It is also worth checking out other activities in the area before you go. There is nothing better than arriving at the hot springs in the late afternoon to recover from a challenging hike or after a rewarding day spotting wildlife. With so much on offer in the region of Tuscany, time is of the essence, so use it wisely and see if you can squeeze multiple activities into your day.
Finally, consider what you will be doing after your visit. As mentioned before, the waters can cause certain strong odours to linger on your clothes and there is no guarantee of changing and showering facilities. If you are thinking of heading out for a meal after, it is worth ensuring that you will be able to shower and change beforehand.
Are all hot springs free?
There are spas and resorts that make great use of the hot springs too and some of these places offer other treatments too. However, by using our guide, you will find plenty of naturally rich, financially free hot springs in different regions across Tuscany.
Where are the best hot springs?
This really depends on your tastes and other interests. Some of the hot springs have a deeper, more intriguing history, while others are located in secluded, blissful spots. Use our guide to help you find the right fit for you.
How much time do I need?
You can spend as little or as long as you like at the hot springs as they are available as a free, natural resource. Take a picnic, some games to play and make a whole day of it, or hop in for a short time after a long day of exploring the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Both are great experiences, but don’t forget to consider carefully our ‘Other Tips’ section when planning your trip.
Italy as a whole, and Tuscany in particular, are places to feature near the top of many people’s bucket list. With so much to do, great variety, astonishing culture and history, exquisite food and beautiful weather, that really is no surprise. Ensure you prepare well for your trip and you will create memories and moments of magic that will stay with you forever.