Saturnia’s natural thermal baths must be visited at least once in a lifetime. Given that they lie about three hours south of Florence, it’s worth making a weekend out of it. Here are my hot 37°C tips (same temperature as the healing water!).
Depart Florence on Friday evening and check into accommodation in Saturnia town center or in one of the nearby villages, Sovana, Pitigliano or Sorano, the famous città del tufo (“tuff towns”), a relatively soft rock made of solidified volcanic ash, which was used for construction by the Etruscans and the Ancient Romans. For dinner in Sovana, enjoy a generous apericena with local cheese and cured meats at Golosofia, an enoteca that carries local wines. In Pitigliano, dine at Il Tufo Allegro, where chef Domenico Pichini offers his “cuisine of the goym”, focusing on the traditional kosher food of Pitigliano’s past Jewish community. If you’re in Sorano, check out L’Ottava Rima. If you’ve chosen to lay your head in Saturnia, make a reservation at I Due Cippi. Run by brothers Alessandro and Lorenzo Aiello, expect a fine-dining dinner while listening to the clunk of cleavers splitting steaks.
On Saturday morning, get up early to soak in Saturnia’s Cascate del Mulino, a striking series of overlapping shallow pools filled with 37°C (98.6°F) transparent, light blue water that originates in the bowels of Monte Amiata, an ancient inactive volcano. These relaxing sulfurous waters are believed to be beneficial for respiratory disorders, skin problems and circulation. The Cascate del Mulino pools are open 24/7 and access is free. There is a parking lot nearby and no-frills, newly renovated café with bathrooms, changing rooms, showers and lockers (for a fee). If visiting the natural springs sounds like too much of a thrill, you can enjoy the same thermal waters for a fee at Terme di Saturnia SPA & Golf Resort. Spend the rest of the day exploring the Etruscan ruins, churches and artisan shops around Sovana, Pitigliano and Sorano.
On Sunday, on your way back to Florence, take a detour to San Giovanni delle Contee, a village of about 150 inhabitants, mostly elderly, in one of the most rapidly depopulating areas of Italy due to unsatisfactory health, education and communication infrastructure. It’s one of those towns where you could probably buy a home and a patch of land for 10,000 euro, without having to worry about the red tape surrounding those “infamous” one-euro houses. Expect clean air, kind people, delicious food, and there’s even a fascinating history of home winemaking: just about every home sits above a cantina that was painstakingly dug out of the rock. It’s such an established practice that there’s now a competition, Disfida delle Contee. Every June, Tommaso Ciuffoletti, of Cantina del Rospo, invites sommeliers, journalists and producers from all over the country to judge the Sangiovannesi’s homemade wines in a professional blind tasting. You could go too and taste every nonno’s wine for just five euro.
Have lunch or dinner at Osteria Maccalè, founded in 2019 thanks to the joint efforts of 27 local families. By eating there, you’re actively supporting the village because the osteria is also the headquarters of San Giovanni’s community cooperative, which offers services like grocery shopping for the elderly, fixing old trekking paths and hosting events. The food is incredible, of course, especially the pici maremmani pasta, hand rolled by the mamme and nonne in the kitchen with a battery-powered neck fan wrapped around their shoulders. This is Tuscany at its most genuine.
Essentials for visiting Saturnia hot springs
A sense of adventure, some nimbleness if you want to climb the pools, reef shoes, SPF, a towel and a waterproof bag if you’re not planning on using the lockers and if you don’t feel comfortable leaving your belongings out and about, plus food and drink if you don’t want to rely on the café.