Owing to its complex geological composition, Italy is punctuated by natural hot springs. Rich in sulphur and an array of other minerals, these waters are considered to have endless health and beauty benefits. From the foaming white pools of Tuscany, to the festering fumaroles of Sicily, and the aqua-marine basins of Lombardy, here are some of the best.
Terme di Saturnia, Tuscany, Italy Courtesy of Gaspar Serrano
Natural Feature, Health Spa
Bagni San Filippo
Bubbling over ivory-white boulders, the steaming hot sulphurous waters of Saturnia, which run from Mount Amiata and the surrounding hills of Maremma, collect in the deep calcareous rock pools below. Popularised by the Romans, legend has it that the Roman god of Saturn first created the springs to pacify mankind. But, after a malaria outbreak, they were completely forgotten about until the 19th century. Today, thousands flock here in search of the teal-coloured curative waters and the sulphur-rich mud, renowned for lowering high-blood pressure, and treating various skin diseases. These thermal baths reach around 37°C, and are suited to every season. Although nearby Terme di Saturnia offers treatments, these wild springs are free.
The Fosso Bianco natural pools in the village of Bagni San Filippo sit at the confluence of several hot springs. Slipping down the calcium-carbonate encrusted rock-face and into the natural cerulean basins below, the Fosso Bianco waterfalls provide the perfect all-year-round bathing experience. Following the tree-lined leafy pathway into the heart of the woods, you will eventually come to the ‘white-whale’ (the largest calcium formation of Bagni San Filippo), where the white-blue water is in marked contrast with the green and copper shades of the woodlands. Spurting out at 48°C, the water here is very warm, which permits bathing during colder months. The rich and remedial mud deposits, sitting at the bottom of the pools, also provide the best (free) spa treatment that Mother Nature can offer.
Situated on the Aeolian Island of Vulcano and only accessible by boat, both the thermal springs and mud baths of Laghetto di Fanghi are within easy walking distance of the island’s harbour. Offering an extraordinarily alternative spa-day experience, the natural mud is also considered an effective treatment for muscle, joint and bone disorders, as well as a number of skin diseases. Despite the acrid stench, many continue to come here to wallow in the widely celebrated 28°C sulphurous sludge. From the fizzing hot springs of the black-sanded beaches, to the steaming fumaroles and the creamy-beige mud baths further inland, there is no end to the ways in which you can lap up the natural goodness.
The hot springs of Petriolo along the River Farma, sit on the border between the municipalities of Monticiano and Civitella Paganico, and are within close proximity to the capital of Tuscany, Florence. Gushing out from the banks of the River Farma torrent at around 43°C, the hot sulphurous pearly waters keep the natural concavities topped up and allow for free, round-the-clock bathing. Off the beaten track, and right in the rural heart of Tuscany, this wild hot spring is bordered by venerable oak and chestnut trees. Positioned below ruined walls – the only remnants of the fortified ancient thermal baths – these historic pools, once frequented by the Etruscans and the Romans, provide the perfect place for a healthy dip.
If you head north to the Lombardy region of Italy, you will find the small medieval town of Bormio. Sitting on the alpine slope of Mount Reit, this commune is particularly noted for its winter sports but is also renowned for its hot springs. There are three main points to the resort: Bagni Vecchi (the old baths), Bagni Nuovi (the new baths), and Terme di Bormio (the spa). The charming 1000-year-old Bagni Vecchi features a pool in an ancient Roman tunnel and provides a spectacular panorama of the snow-capped western Dolomites. The wild spring is situated on the banks of the nearby stream and waters reach around 40°C.