In recent years, the thermal district of Saturnia in Tuscany, Italy, has become the target of intense international tourism, as has Tuscany in general. It’s not so common to witness such a delicate view of natural pools of bright travertine marble thrusting out from the slope of a green hill. The water of the Saturnia hot spring pours out from the top of the hill, gathers in a stream and ultimately crashes down in a group of waterfalls, spilling into the marble pools that you’ve seen on the postcard. The place resembles Pamukkale in Turkey, which is a UNESCO Heritage Site too, but the thermal pools in Saturnia are much smaller. There’s a chance that you are disappointed if you visit here expecting to have a secluded thermal bath. Instead, your trip to Saturnia might result in a communal experience. This won’t take away any of the uniqueness and beauty of the “Cascate del Mulino,” as locals call it. For a wider choice of hot springs in central Italy, also check out the lesser known thermal baths near Rome. Let’s now dive into some essential information to plan your trip to the Saturnia hot springs.
Best time of the year to visit Saturnia, Tuscany, Italy
The flow of tourism in Saturnia is at its peak in the summer, from May to October, and especially after sunset. However, you’re going to find travelers enjoying the pools also at the coldest time of the year during January and February. If you get there by sunrise, you won’t find as many people as in other parts of the day, and the atmosphere will be quieter and mystical.
6 tips for having a memorable experience at the Saturnia hot springs
The first and foremost recommendation for visiting the public thermal pools in Saturnia is to wear aqua shoes or sandals. Even if the bottom of the pools is smooth travertine marble, you never know what the stream has brought down from the hills.
This is a wild natural place, barely managed by public services. After big storms, there might be mud, stones, or vegetation. Something that you don’t want to do is to visit the site when the weather is bad.
Furthermore, when the place is packed, you will want to go from one little pool to another and find the right place for yourself and your family, and this is when your aqua shoes will come in very handy.
There’s a coffee shop 50 m from the pools, open 24h, where you can have meals or snacks at reasonable prices or use the restrooms for free. The adjacent parking is free as well.
One thing to keep in mind before going to have your relaxing bath is that there isn’t any place to put your personal items (towels, bags, car keys). At night it is quite dark and thefts are frequently reported, especially regarding items in the cars parked in the public parking. What should you do?
Most people keep their bags on the ground right by the pools and at night leave at home their phones and other technology. Another tip is that if you climb back up the stream, you will find more pools, and these are less crowded than the ones at the bottom.
Relaxing inside the pools | Saturnia Tuscany Italy
Where is Saturnia?
The complex of hot springs, natural thermal pools, and waterfalls known as Saturnia is called “Cascate del Mulino” (Mill’s Falls) in Italian because there’s an old mill right beside it and currently unused. The pools belong to the district of Saturnia in the larger municipality of Manciano Village and are located less than 20 km from the border between Tuscany and Lazio, 40 km from the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west and Lake Bolsena to the east. The region surrounding Saturnia is the “Tuscia.” It has distinctive geological tracts like the presence of three extinct volcanoes that are now lakes, hot springs, gorges, and huge tuff rocks. It includes territories in the provinces of Tuscany, Lazio, and Umbria.
Where to stay in Saturnia, Tuscany, Italy
The first time I visited the Saturnia thermal pools was in 2004. I spent half the night in the pools and half in a small tent we had pitched nearby. Tourism wasn’t as huge as it is today. Free camping near the water is now forbidden and camping sites nearby are non-existent. There’s one option for campervan drivers.
Camping sites with RV and tents areas
Camping Campo Regio in Albinia | North of the Argentario Peninsula, in front of the sea. Here you have access to some of the best beaches and beach towns near Rome.
Campeggio Vallegara on the western shores of Lake Bolsena.|
Further accommodation near the Saturnia hot springs in Tuscany, Italy
The more popular accommodation near the Saturnia hot springs is at an agriturismo or B&B. The closer to the thermal pools, the more expensive, of course. If you look for an agriturismo in the Tuscia region, like in the villages of Sovana and Pitigliano instead, you could get better offers of between €45 and €70 per night. You might also choose to sleep in the nearest city in Lazio, which is the beautiful Viterbo and has more thermal pools to discover. The Saturnia hot springs can also be a day trip from Rome or Florence. The area is rich in interesting places and is the perfect starting point to visit Tuscany from Rome.
Properties and history of the Saturnia hot springs
The history of Saturnia is incredible and dates back to 3,000 years ago. A Greek historian argues that the mythic Pelasgi people founded the city. The Etruscan revered the thermal waters of Saturnia and made it part of their kingdom, with Lake Bolsena at the center. The water originates from the crater of the Amiata Mountain, which was a volcano, at 800 liters per second, and it slowly travels underground, drop by drop, until it reaches the Saturnia hot spring. This trip, at 700 m depth, takes no less than 40 years, even if the mountain and the hot springs are just a few km distant from each other. The underground tour applies all kinds of mineral properties to the thermal waters of Saturnia. Thermal baths help support your respiratory, osteoarticular, vascular, and gastric systems, and, of course, your skin. The water pours out of the hot spring at 37.5 degrees and loses a few degrees by the time it reaches the thermal pools. The thermal water is continuously flowing from the top of the hill to the pools.
The creepy “red worms” at the Saturnia thermal pools
If this is your first time at the Saturnia hot spring, you might be a little bit disgusted when you find out who the true tenants of the thermal pools are… I spotted those tiny, red worms only at sunrise, after a night of idyllic baths, unaware of those beings that were stuck to my skin, hair, and swimsuit. You can’t see them when it’s dark, and they are so little, just two-three mm long! I did my research and discovered they are 100% harmless larvas that inhabit the area and flow down with the thermal stream. So, you will be safe — you only need to share the pools with them… And if you bathe when it’s dark, even better, as you can’t see them at all.
How to get to Saturnia
Since the nearest train station is 45 km away in Montalto di Castro, the best way to get here is by car. If you stay at a hotel in Saturnia or another town nearby, there’s a good chance they will provide rides to and from the free pools or the thermal center with a shuttle bus.
Free thermal pools VS the Saturnia Thermal Center
The same hot spring serves the free public pools that you’ve seen in all those cool YouTube videos and the private Saturnia Thermal Center. The thermal center offers a more secluded and comfortable thermal experience, with big pools, and indoor and outdoor spaces to lie in and relax. The restaurant serves breakfast, finger foods, and lunch. The basic entrance fee is €26.
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