If you want to enjoy hot springs while in Tuscany, add in a stop to Bagno Vignoni in the Val d'Orcia
Bagno Vignoni is one of those places in Tuscany that is quite popular despite its very small size. Why? Because it is enchanting and charming... and it has hot springs! Add a stop here to also enjoy the wonderful views of the Val d'Orcia all around the small town, including the Rocca di Tentennano in Castiglione d'Orcia in the distance.
Bagno Vignoni is very unique: nowhere else in Italy will you find its main central square has a pool filled with hot springs water. 49 meters long and 29 meters wide, the Renaissance-era piazza is built directly over the original source of hot springs as enjoyed by the Romans.
Bagno Vignoni has been on the map since... forever! The Etruscans and Romans loved hot springs not just for keeping clean, but for their medical properties. Since the 9th century, the springs here and in Bagni San Filippo, located a bit further south at the foot of the Monte Amiata, have been mentioned in old travel journals of abbots and others making their pilgrimage down to Rome (and many on to Jerusalem). Bagno Vignoni is, in fact, just a few minutes off the Via Francigena, one of the most important travel routes taken by pilgrims from England down to Rome and to the Holy Land. Famous historical figures, including Pope Pius II, Catherine of Siena and Lorenzo the Magnificent, enjoyed the hot springs at Bagno Vignoni on a regular basis.
The hot springs in Bagno Vignoni have always allowed water to flow even during the warm summer months, thus several water mills were constructed along the Orcia river over the centuries. These ancient mills, along with a complex system of water canals and gorges today constitute the Parco dei Mulini, or Park of the Mills, created in the 1990s.
Don't forget to bring along a swim suit and towel when visiting to enjoy the hot springs. Of course, you can take a break for a whole day and enjoy the many spa treatments in the luxurious spa centers and hotels that are set up over the town (see more details below). While you cannot take a bath directly in the main pool, you can follow the springs down behind the square and over the cliff past the remains of the old mills and head down as mentioned to the "Park of the Mills" where you can enjoy the pools of naturally hot water for free!
The small canals of hot springs that go from the main square down the cliff also invite one to take off your shoes (as you can see from my photos) and get a quick soak in the warm water.
While it is a small town, the hot springs are a favorite destination for a quick weekend getaway and for relaxing vacations with great visual impact.
Hot springs for your health
From the 11th century onward, water therapy as a medical practice is well documented and many people "take the waters" to heal many illnesses and to treat aches and pains in general.
Let's get a little technical here so that you know a bit more about this place: the hot springs at Bagno Vignoni come out at 52°C and are thus the hottest in all of Tuscany! They are considered "hyper-thermal" and are sulfate/bicarbonate/alkaline/mineral-rich waters. This makes them particularly recommended for treating the skin, as well as the therapeutic treatment of the skeletal system (such as osteoporosis and arthritis). They have a relaxing effect on muscles and on your general well-being, considering the high temperature.
Bagno Vignoni is often recommended to women: they help efficiently drain cellulite and also get over those monthly cramps we are afflicted with (the heat helps with muscle spasms).
Where to enjoy the Bagno Vignoni hot springs for free?
Parco dei Mulini in Bagno Vignoni (Credit: Morris Losurdo)
You can enjoy the hot springs "freely" outdoors just below the main town. Follow the small canals to the left of the main square, then the path down the hill. A short hike later, you will first find a large rectangular pool at the bottom of the cliff (photo above). The water is not as hot as at the source at the top of the hill so they are perfect for those that suffer from low blood pressure and anyone who does not like very hot water. There are several other smaller pools along the river if you want to explore further down (but water gets colder). Remember the only bad part of the free springs is that you don't have changing rooms or bathrooms so know this and plan your stop accordingly.
Where to go for a bit of upscale hot spring treatment?
The main hot springs structures in town are: Santa Caterina, the oldest establishment right next to the main square. It is the one aimed for curing ills, from mud baths to inhaling the mineral vapor, such as arthritis, osteoporosis and other pains.
Then there are 3 main wellness centers that use the hot springs for treatments and services but with a bit more attention on pampering: the Adler Spa Resort Thermae, Hotel Posta Marcucci and Hotel Le Terme.
This luxurious 5 star resort has a large wellness center where you will find a Finnish sauna, Turkish bath, outdoor and indoor pools, herbal caldarium, well-equipped gym, many treatments and massages. The temperature of their pools is at 36°C. Includes an on-site restaurant and panoramic views of the Val d'Orcia countryside from most of its rooms. The resort is right off the road as you first turn off the Via Cassia to the town.
The hotel Posta Marcuci only has 37 rooms, but it has incredible views, a spa center, indoor and outdoors thermal water pools and an on-site restaurant. They will provide guests with bathrobes and free toiletries so you can really decide to stop by without much planning ahead (just don't forget a swimsuit!).
The Marucci family was in Bagno Vignoni since the mid-1800s when they first managed a small grocery shop, which also provided postal service for the area. Fast forward to the 1950s, the family expanded into the hospitality business by building the current hotel on a flattened vineyard just outside the town center. Intuition played its part when the owners saw marshy land behind the hotel, so they began to dig deeper and out sprung hot water which has fed the two outdoors pools since then. In the first pool the water stabilises at between 35 and 38° C, and in the second between 28 e 32° C. The hotel is located near the main piazza to the side of the cliff that overlooks the Orcia tower fortress across the valley.
While this is a 3 star hotel, it sits right along the eastern side of the main pool in the center of Bagno Vignoni and offers quality services, hospitality and a view!
Guests have access to the hydro-massage bath (at 32°C), the Roman sauna with therapeutic pools (at 40°C) and the main thermal hot springs pool (at 38°C). The vast assortment of beauty treatments and massages let you decide what you need to pamper/treat/cure! Includes on-site restaurant and a beautiful historical setting to your entire stay in this family-run hotel (with only 36 rooms). The hotel does not have outdoor pools and it is the more affordable of the hotels in town.
How to get to Bagno Vignoni
Getting to Bagno Vignoni is quite easy, but you WILL NEED A CAR! You can find buses from San Quirico d'Orcia but buses in the area are not regular and it would take over 2 hours to get there from Siena, for example.
If you have a car, Bagno Vignoni is about an hour's drive south of Siena, just follow the Via Cassia SR2 from Siena all the way down. You will pass San Quirico d'Orcia and shortly thereafter (just under 10 minutes) you'll find the exit to Bagno Vignoni on your right.
It is about 2 hours south of Florence, an hour and a half drive from the Maremma area and just 40 minutes from Montepulciano. It is about a 2.5 hour drive from Rome, passing through Chianciano Terme.
Enjoy your stop at Bagno Vignoni and a dip in the hot springs!