Thermal baths in times of Crisis: Saturnia and Petriolo

Petriolo free thermal pools

Alas, Autumn has crossed the door, chasing Summer away for good from both our thoughts as well as wardrobes! Goodbye holidays and vacations at the sea and, luckily, goodbye to the hot temperatures as well… or at least, see you next year!

When I’m a bit out of sorts (and this season is a bit synonymous with a tinge of sadness or blues, isn’t it?) my first thought goes to the easiest, simplest medicine for feeling better: a trip! Considering that nowadays one has to skimp a bit on vacations, an alternative solution is definitely necessary!!

So, what are the main ingredients of a possible out-of-town excursion this time of year? Low cost (considering both the economic crisis and recent summer vacations), autumn (a time for everything), revitalizing in body and soul (it’s true that summer has just passed out, but now its the spirit that needs help) and finally, relaxation…. oh, here I am: thermal baths!

A thermal vacation does everyone good, but while a spa offering all types of services and facilities (you maybe don’t even know their existence!) are not affordable to everyone… natural thermal baths certainly are!

Petriolo and Saturnia, just to mention two of  the most well-known in Tuscany, provide not only fully equipped wellness centers, but also natural hot water springs open to everyone interested in enjoying their benefits without spending anything! Ready to go?

Saturnia, Jupiter’s error

Saturnia thermal baths

Saturnia, set in the Maremma landscape just a few steps from Mount Amiata, offers several natural “shelves” from which hot water (at a temperature of about 37°C) gushes out onto a beautiful waterfall. Legend has it that they were born from a lightening that Jupiter threw against Saturn (fortunately for all of us, failing). Besides the extra luxurious (but obviously not cheap) spa center which houses three sulfurous pools and boasts many wellness treatments, Saturnia offers what are called the Gorello hot springs and the thermal shelves of Manciano which are free and open to everyone.

Bathing in Saturnia

To get there, first head to Scansano (the hometown to the most renowned red wine in Maremma, the Morellino di Scansano) following directions to Grosseto first (if coming from North) or Capalbio (if coming from Rome or southern localities) and to then on to Scansano. Once you get there, you need to head to Manciano and to Saturnia; just before the small town, you will see a curb with lots of cars, park there and then just walk down toward the river and the waterfall!

Petriolo along the freezing Farma river

The old thermal establishment in Petriolo

The Petriolo thermal baths are located near Grosseto too, but along the Farma river in the Ombrone Valley, between the towns of Monticiano and Civitella Paganico in what is called the “upper Maremma”. Similar to Saturnia, the Petriolo hot springs were already known during Etruscans and Romans times, which further confirms the benefits of these sulfurous waters. Once again, there you may find thermal solutions to suit everybody’s fancy!

Besides the elegant spa with all modern amenities, the above mentioned river offers interesting and cheap alternatives to enjoy equally! Your first stop could be about 800 meters far from the wellness center, where water rich in calcium carbonated gushes out. The most attractive, however, is set amidst the silence of a wood along the Farma river, hidden to the curious and from mass tourism.

Walking a bit through a dirt patch, you get to a clearing which has recently become a sort of free campground for anyone that wants to spend a few days there to enjoy the thermal springs, surrounded by a wonderful and unspoilt nature. There, along to the freezing Farma river (during the fall and winter it can get quite cold), there are several smaller springs spouting on rocky shelves, creating natural little pools and you can alternate between the warm waters and then the cooler river water. At night, there are always parties under the stars: bonfires, music and wine lights and warms up the ambiance, even when it rains!!

The unspoilt nature that surround Petriolo free baths

To get to Petriolo, whether you’re coming from the south or north, follow directions to Siena, then to Grosseto and then to Monticiano.

Other free thermal destinations in Tuscany

San Casciano Val di Pesa and Bagno Vignoni (the former in the province of Florence and the later in Siena) also offer varied free thermal solutions. So, despite super luxurious spas limiting the pleasure of these relaxing moments to a few lucky people, in Tuscany there is still a chance to practice D.I.Y. thermal baths – bring towels, bathrobes and slippers along, and be prepared to be a little smelly afterward!

Useful advice for bathing in thermal waters

Before bathing in the hot thermal waters, however, it’s necessary to keep in mind a few simple indications, such as: if you have cardiovascular problems or recently undergone surgeries, have skin lesions, convulsive (like epilepsy) or blood flow diseases, or if you’re pregnant, you’re strongly advised to avoid thermal baths.

Once you keep this in mind (as well as the simplest common sense rules, like: don’t bath just after eating even if it’s hot water and do not bath too long as carbon dioxide and sulfurous hydrogen can be gradually absorbed through the skin), your relaxing holiday is 100% guaranteed!!

About Chiara Ricci

Chiara was born in Pescia, where the province of Pistoia borders with Lucca, has lived and studied in both Florence and Pisa for several years. Traveling is her second passion... Her first one? To swim, but up to now it's still impossible for her to explore Tuscany and the world swimming so she has to use other means!