I recently watched my favorite movie Casablanca for the thousandth time, and there’s a line in it where Captain Renault asks Humphrey Bogart’s character Rick what in heaven’s name brought him to Casablanca.
Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Renault: The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.
Rick: I was misinformed.
Classic Bogart dry wit aside, the line about “the waters” struck me almost as much as its delivery. I mean, who travels for “the waters”? Turns out, a lot of people, especially in Tuscany Italy, where Italians have been enjoying the healing benefits of thermal baths since time began. I’d never heard of the famous Tuscan hot springs before. I’d visited Tuscany several times for the wine, the iconic scenery of cypress tree-lined rolling hills, and the hearty Tuscan food, but it wasn’t until a local told me about them and how to get there that we planned an afternoon. You can enjoy thermal baths and hot springs in various settings on your Tuscany trip from exclusive luxury wellness spas or right at the source, in nature.
Where to find hot springs on your Tuscany trip
Tuscany has the highest number of thermal centers in all of Italy. Several of these luxury properties are sought after destinations for a relaxing spa vacation. You’ll find natural baths whose temperatures range from 25°C to 54°C and with therapeutic properties aimed at treating everything from respiratory and vascular disease to rheumatoid arthritis and musculoskeletal ailments across the world.
In northern Tuscany between Chianti and Val di Chiana, Rapolano Terme is a little town surrounded by the picturesque Crete Senesi and well-known for the two thermal spas of San Giovanni and Antica Querciolaia, which offer innovative and modern wellness treatments, as well as the latest technologies for specific diseases. Rates for the thermal springs here depend on the time of day, with additional fees for busier times of the day, meals, access to the pools and other services.
Between the provinces of Siena and Grosseto, the natural thermal waters of Saturnia and Petriolo offer a variety of choices for enjoying total relax and curative wellness, from the free hot thermal pools in nature, to the luxurious and modern centers offering all kind of treatments.
Further south, the province of Siena is the richest area of natural thermal waters in all of Tuscany. The landscape here is what you typically see characterizing Tuscany – the rolling hills of the Val d’Orcia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Tuscany ValdOrcia image)
Bagno Vignoni and Bagni San Filippo
One of the oldest and most famous thermal locations of the region lies south of Siena. Bagno Vignoni (BagnoVignoni image) is well known for its Roman period pool situated in the center of the main square and surrounded by a beautiful landscape. While you cannot soak at the main square pool, you can at the Parco dei Mulini – free of charge – just down the road. Bagni Vignoni is located close to Castiglione d’Orcia and Pienza, another UNESCO town, so pairing your visit with a food and wine tour makes for a perfect day out on your Tuscany trip.
A short distance from Bagno Vignoni is Bagni San Filippo, a natural outdoor location with sulfurous hot springs and gentle waters that’s free of charge and definitely worth a visit. There are many signs pointing you in the direction of the springs, and you’ll have to park and hike down. Bring sturdy shoes to walk down the road and along the craggy rock paths, and water shoes to walk in the natural pools as the rocks underfoot can be sharp and slippery.
Chianciano Terme is the perfect thermal base for exploring the surrounding Tuscan Val’ d’Orcia, a stunning valley between Montalcino, Pienza and Montepulciano. Over the years the center has been recognized for treating liver problems among other ailments through its hydroponic treatments. Rates to access the facility depend on the treatment but start at around 60€ per person.
So if you’re looking to enjoy Italy like the locals do, plan for some healing and relaxation on your next vacation and take in “the waters” for a truly unique way to explore Tuscany.