The beauty of Heat & Humidity: Enjoying a Sauna

Generally heat and humidity are not seen as a positive thing, especially as you walk around sightseeing under the hot Tuscan sun come summer. I can assure you, however, the one place I do enjoy both is when at a Spa, particularly one as welcoming as Asmana, where I’ve been going lately to relax from daily routines and work.

The world of water and heat comes together at Asmana, all year round, to help you relax! Consider if you live in a cold area of the world and want some warmth during the long cold winters? Then you’ll be like the Finnish, where today’s idea of the sauna was invented and where the word itself comes from. Almost every house there has one!

What is a sauna? They are hot rooms in which to sweat in! Generally there is a heat source in the middle and water is thrown on it to create steam, thus increasing the perceived heat in the room. Sweating is good, since the heat opens up your pores and in sweating, it flushes out toxins, cleanses your skin, enhances cardiovascular function and boosts your ability to reduce stress. Didn’t know it did all that, did you? 😉

While you might not think of going to a sauna in the middle of the summer, it is the perfect way to relax on your vacation at any time of the year. I go try out these experiences to make sure I can tell you first-hand what to expect and what I like the most. Since I’ve been going to Asmana recently, this is what I can tell you about what to expect about the saunas there… and why you should go, even in the warm summer months!

The saunas at Asmana

This is the wine sauna, made with wood recovered from oak barrels used previously to age Tuscan wine, with 20% humidity and 80°C temperature

As opposed to the Hammam which is high heat and humidity (read more about my Hammam experience at Asmana), the saunas at Asmana have high heat and LOW humidity. At Asmana, there are 3 saunas and go from 20% humidity and a temperature of 80°C to 30% humidity and a temperature of 60°C, with the third one being right in the middle (25% humidity, temperature of 70°C).

The last time I went, I went to the Wine Sauna (pictured above) and to a special ceremony inside called an Aufguss, which is a tradition from Germany. The ceremony consists of a master of ceremonies placing balls of ice combined with special essential oils on the hot rocks in the middle of the sauna, and as the ice melts it creates extra moisture. The master of ceremonies uses a towel and moves around the room, moving the hot air around the sauna. You get waves of hotter air on you, enjoying the extra humidity as well as the essential oils.

Just as important as opening up the pores is to close them after the sauna. The ceremonies all last about 10 minutes, after that you head out of the sauna and take a quick shower to rinse your sweat off and nearby is a large basin with cold water: you climb a few steps up to access and then step in. The cold water makes your pores tighten, and as they do, blood flows back to your organs and helps your body’s natural defense system train to become stronger and respond in times of need. For this reason it is said that one of the benefits of a sauna is to strengthen the immunological system. Depending on the time of year, the cold water bath at the end might not be very “appetizing” but make sure to do it, it is part of the process of putting your body through a sauna and making it sweat. When I went in the winter, this cold bath was really hard to do but I found it was definitely worthwhile – I felt like superwoman after for doing it! 😀 Of course, in the summer, the cold water dip is much more pleasant, even if still a bit jarring.

I’ve seen there are ceremonies in the 3 saunas throughout the day, alternating among the three each time. Check out which one you’d like to go to when you arrive at Asmana. I’ve personally found the ceremonies to be the perfect way to enjoy the saunas since they last the right amount of time, about 10 minutes. You should never stay in a sauna longer than 15 minutes. Make sure to use the lower seats at first, since the temperature is slightly less on those lower areas. If you feel fine, move to the higher benches. You can, of course, go into the saunas when there are no ceremonies but remember to keep track of the time you are inside.

Always rest after a sauna, at least 30 minutes, and re-hydrate at that time. You can do up to 3 saunas in a day but it isn’t recommended to do any more than that. Generally Asmana offers an herbal tea to guests after each of the ceremonies but make sure to head back to the bar or bistro to get something more to drink to re-hydrate appropriately, especially if you plan to do more time in the saunas. Note that it is recommended you do not enter the steam baths on an empty stomach, nor on a full stomach. So plan appropriately!

First time at Asmana? Make sure to read my general presentation to prepare. Want an itinerary to guide you through the top areas at Asmana? Read my two hour itinerary to get ideas of what to do.

IMPORTANT NOTE: It is important you are in a good state of health before you go into a sauna, you know whether you are feeling a bit sick or cannot handle the heat. Anyone with cardiovascular health problems, not controlled high blood pressure or very low blood pressure, varicose veins, malign tumors, epilepsy or pregnant women should not go into the saunas. Consult your doctor to double check you can go. Even if the sauna is off-limits, you can generally still enjoy much of what Asmana offers, especially the many warm water pools and whirlpools – I would suggest sticking to those.

This is the Herb Sauna, with 25% humidity and 70°C temperature

About Lourdes Flores

An American living in Florence for over 10 years, Lourdes continues to explore and discover new places in Tuscany with the eyes of a tourist but with the experience of living in Italy. She shares her experiences on this blog and website, particularly offering lots of travel planning help on the Forum!