Named after Saturn, a Roman God (and planet) the legend has it that the pools were created when he sent a thunderbolt down to earth from the heavens as a way to pacify mankind from constantly going to war. At a steady 99.5°F all year round these natural springs are not just a beauty to behold but believed to have an array of health-related benefits.
The springs are equally as popular with locals as they are with the masses of tourists who come to marvel at them each year. Beware that depending on the season that you choose to visit, it can be quite hectic during peak hours with throngs of people taking in the springs. There are also be limited amenities if you are sticking with the free, natural parks of Cascate del Mulino or Cascate del Gorello (which we are mostly discussing here) so its best to plan ahead and pack a picnic, plenty of water and sensible shoes for the rugged terrain. Don't bank on getting a shower in after your soak as there are only a few coin-operated showers available and they aren't the most hygienic.
Saturnia Terme refers to a collection of various springs across the region from Mount Amiata to Saturnia and Roselle but can easily be confused by the high-end resort that shares its namesake. No matter where you find yourself in Saturnia, you will be surrounded by nature and land steeped in history so there are many reasons you should consider stopping by when you are under the Tuscan sun. We've listed a bunch of them below.
25 There's A Free Natural Spa
Of course we are referring to Cascate del Mulino or Cascate del Gorello when we say free as it is located in a naturalistic park where admission and parking are without cost!
Navigating to the natural pools can be a bit tricky. If you have a GPS it will make it much smoother if you plug in Cascate del Mulino or Cascate del Gorello specifically versus the more generally defaulted Saturnia Terme which will take you towards a more luxe option for those who are looking for that traditional spa experience.
Located in the province of Grossetto, this area of Tuscany is far less touristic than some of the other parts so it can help to know a few phrases in Italian in case you get lost and need directions.
24 You Can Do As The Romans Did
Initially discovered by the Etruscans, you will be participating in a slice of history when you plonk down in these pools. The Etruscans lived nearby during the Bronze age and honoured the "holy baths" that they believed were sent to them by the gods. When the Romans heard of this natural paradise, it did not take long before they took them for their own, building the first public bath Aurinia in the centre of Saturnia.
During a Puritan revolution, interestingly enough, the baths were shunned, believing that the waters were the gates to hell and encouraged temptation and sin - yikes! Eventually, locals overturned this rumour and returned to their beloved baths.
23 Rest in The Rich Minerals
The thermal waters today are highly regarded for their vast therapeutic qualities which are due to the high mineral content. More specifically the minerals sulphur, carbon, as well as thermal plankton present in the water.
For every litre of water there is 14 mg of hydrogen sulphide and 462 cc of carbon dioxide as well as large quantities of sulphur oxide, bicarbonate ions, calcium and magnesium. These minerals are absorbed quickly by the body due to the high heat of the water and provide numerous health benefits.
Just make sure to remove any jewellery that isn't solid gold as it can tarnish and rust any other metals quite quickly.
22 It's A Total Relaxation Station
Since stress is a well-known cause for illness affecting (at an all time high) 24% of the American population. Suffering from stress related illness means its harder to get well again but with a mineral bath you can relax yourself efficiently.
When you're relaxed it promotes health by allowing the immune system to perform optimally, whereas stress can otherwise perpetuate illness.
The benefit of a mineral bath in addition to the relaxing nature of heat on the body is the high mineral, naturally purified content of the water. However to avoid too much of a good thing, it is suggested to soak in 20 minute intervals so as to give the body time to adjust and not to overheat.
21 Detox Like Never Before
We all accumulate various toxins throughout our day and detoxing is a great way to boost energy levels and balance the body's mineral and enzyme content. The mineral baths at their high temperature open the pores of the skin and promote sweating. The minerals also help to oxidize the blood, improving blood flow bringing nourishment to organs and tissue.
Not unlike a run or a hot yoga session, this allows the body to emit any toxins built up, produced by exposure to pollution, processed foods and pesticides.
While it's probably not something you have to worry too much about in Tuscany, toxins can build up over time so by taking a soak in the spring, you'll have a clean slate!
20 The Waters Are Ideal for Runners or After A Long Hike
If you have had a long day of hiking, a run, or simply enjoyed some extensive sight seeing in Tuscany a soak in the hot springs can truly feel like a gift from the gods.
The buoyancy of the water reduces stress on joints, making them looser and increasing mobility.
The heat of the water signals to the brain to produce endorphins which boosts the mood and alleviates pain. Hot baths have been prescribed in may forms to treat minor injuries and aches for these glorious benefits and can be a fantastic way to recover after a long day. Is there anything these waters can't do?
19 It's A Beautiful Drive Through The Countryside En Route
Roughly a 200 km drive from Florence and 450 km from Milan, you will definitely need a car to reach the pools. It can be a bit difficult to locate the park if it's your first time visiting as most people end up at the spa facility out of sheer ambivalence.
Luckily, if you should pursue your hunt, you won't be short on the eye candy featured on the winding country roads. The Tuscan hillside is famous for its rolling hills, old stone farmhouses, vineyards, hamlets and olive groves. Stop to ask for directions and sample the local vino and salumi while you're there because after-all, when in Rome (or close enough to it) you should do as the Romans do.
18 You Will Sleep Like An Angel
Perhaps the most amazing effect of a day at the thermal waters is the quality of sleep you get during the nights that follow. The fresh country air, the mineral rejuvenation and the heat allows for your body to prepare for deep restful sleep.
Make sure you stick to 20 minute intervals in the pool however or you will veer from deep restful sleep into energy-drain territory. To avoid wasting this glorious afterglow from the waters, you can stay overnight in a local bed and breakfast where you will be well looked after.
We have some delightful accommodation tips to come, read on!
17 You Will Be One With Nature
The pools are located in Maremma in the province of Grosseto and here you will find some awe inspiring flora and fauna like holm oaks and strawberry bushes or if you're lucky you might cross paths with a deer!
After you have soaked in the natural springs, which have travelled through layers and layers of the earth, you may take solace in visiting the Parco Naturale della Maremma where you can tour panoramic views, ancient ruins and commune with the wildlife all at once. You can hire a guide for a more structured visit or take a swim in the sea at the wild beach - the world is your oyster.
16 Did Someone Say Waterfall Massages?
Not into shelling out the cash on a pro massage? If you head to the pools you can get a one of a kind hydro massage from a waterfall.
If you aren't keen on massages at all you can simply admire the waterfalls as a backdrop to the natural piece of paradise that is Cascate del Mulino.
Forget white noise machines, you have the real deal happening all around you as you wade in the precious healing waters of this natural jacuzzi. You will be simply amazed at how quickly and happily this ambience allows you to lose track of time.
15 Work On Your Tan While You're At It
If you're heading to the pools on particularly sunny day you're going to want to apply and re-apply sunscreen and perhaps even pack a sun umbrella for additional shade.
Unfortunately there are no trees to be had anywhere around the pools and it can get quite scorching! If you are blessed with high levels of melatonin (aka the beautiful Italian olive complexion) then you may get away with basking a little longer and doubling up with a tan.
However, if you are not used to the Mediterranean sun, make sure to take regular breaks and plan appropriately as holiday burns can be a real bummer.
14 You Can Cool Off in River Albegna
If you've found yourself getting a bit cooked or overdoing the 20 minute time limit you can take a dip in the nearby river Albegna.
This is also a great way to boost circulation as we see in manmade Finnish-inspired spas where alternating hot and cold temperatures are said to close pores (shutting the heat in) while encouraging the body to release toxins and muscles to release tension. After a couple of dips in the hot pools alternating with the Albegna river, you can relax on the side lines and allow the cardiovascular system to reap the rewards, rest and stabilize blood flow.
13 It's Accessible ALL of the Time
Unlike the mass majority of activities in Italy, it doesn't matter when you visit because the park is always open 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. This means that you can tailor your plans quite nicely to include a local vino tasting and still visit the pools in the later day hours if you so please! Just remember, there is not a whole lot in terms of infrastructure or lighting so be sure to bring a flashlight and stay safe if visiting after dark or during colder, wintery (slippery) months.
As any person visiting Italy will tell you, the flexibility featured by this natural spa is rare in Italy and is considered a huge bonus.
12 It's Picturesque... to Say The Least
Perhaps made increasingly popular by the ever-famous Instagram influencers and travel bloggers who are constantly broadcasting sun soaked selfies the internet boasts many stunning photographs.
Perhaps it's the aqua blue water cascading delicately down the sides of the naturally formed travertine stone that can make you want to dive right in (but don't).
Or the rustic charm of the surrounding buildings and country side. OR it is knowing that the land is rich with history that makes it feel extra magical.
The truth is that whether you decide to bring your selfie stick or a waterproof disposable camera, it's impossible to take a bad photo. Every time you look at the photo, you will be transcended back to the healing holy baths of the Tuscan countryside.
11 You Will Put Your Hands On Roman Relics
If you enjoy a bit of history, you will want to visit the center of Saturnia where ancient Roman monuments still stand today.
From the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena to Roman columns, walls and the Porta Romana door - you can touch ancient history with your own two hands. Preferring a darker look into the past (or just a walk in the forest) you can also visit the Necropoli, which is a hop and a skip from the pools.
Here lies ancient tombs of Etruscans from days gone by. While you will find serenity and peace in these woods, you won't find too many markings or explanations to describe the tombs but if you can find it, it's worth a visit.
10 The Sheer Romance of It
Traveling through the Tuscan country with your partner to indulge in Italy's finest thermal waters does have a certain ring to it...
Taking a tour of the vineyards together, enjoying some of the best food that Italy has to offer and then settling in for a night in a cozy countryside bed and breakfast can be incredibly romantic.
If the natural park seems too rugged you can visit a proper health resort and take your romantic holiday to luxe level with plush robes and room service. Whether you opt for the rustic romance or the luxurious lovers holiday, it's going to be one for the books in Saturnia.
9 The Sulfur Can Clear Your Skin
Another amazing side-effect to the thermal water soak is its ability to heal skin disorders, rashes, and acne. The waters contain Sulfur (as we know) and so does the body! In fact 25% of the body is made up of this mineral.
Sulfur creates collagen (a protein) that contributes the health and strength of your skin. Bonus: the collagen created by sulfur also contributes to the strength of your bones, ligaments, tendons and bones too!
Silica is another helpful mineral found in the natural baths that soften dry, rough skin and can help with eczema or psoriasis. These pools really are nature's spa.
8 Affordable Accommodations Are Abundant
After a nice long relaxing soak in the spring, the last thing you want to do is jump in the car and drive in maddening traffic to your next destination. Luckily there are many options in Saturnia that can help complete your relaxing day.
La Meria is an Agriturismo which means it combines a bed and breakfast vibe with farm fresh options.
A night stay will cost you about 80 euros for two people in high season and includes a hearty breakfast, stunning panoramic views, wifi, access to a (not thermal) pool and of course, your accommodation. Other options can be found in and around 50-70 euros depending on the time of year.
7 You Can Tell Your Friends You Swam in Volcanic Crater Water
It's not always described in geologic terms but we are nerds so we are going to cover it today. That precious thermal water otherwise known as the 'golden water' is delivered to Saturnia from a volcanic source!
To make a long story short, the water is a result of the interaction of groundwater with magma or with solidified but still-hot igneous rocks at shallow depths. It starts out about 200 m below the surface and continues up into a crater measuring 40 m in width (much smaller than the above pictured).
The water is flowing at a rate of 800 litres per second and the total trip it makes is around 500 meters from where it begins in Monte Amiata to where it cascades down the travertine carved pools.
6 There's Not Too Strong of an Eggy Scent
A common complaint that most visitors have when taking a trip to thermal waters is the sulphuric scent that can come off a bit strong and be quite nausea inducing. Luckily these baths seem to give off a far fainter sulphuric scent than your average hot spring. If you're scent-sitive, this can be a major bonus and can allow you to enjoy your surroundings way more. The reason the sulphur is likened to that of boiled eggs is that egg whites are actually quite naturally high in sulfur content!
Fun fact: the sulphuric scent of eggs has been known to be so deadly that it was used as a chemical weapon in WW1.
5 You Can Go Ahead and Eat A Whole Pizza because The Waters Aid Digestion (Not That We Need A Reason)
Yes, that is a pizza vending machine and no we don't recommend you waste precious pizza eating time in Italy on this machine unless absolutely desperate.
But you are in Tuscany, so whatever you are craving whether it's a whole wheel of Pecorino cheese or steak fiorentina, you can feel good about it since these magical waters also help to aid with digestion and allegedly simulates the effects of weight loss.
In a late 90's study conducted across 8 type-2 diabetic subjects, they were asked to spend 30 minutes in hot mineral baths for 3 weeks. In addition to reporting improved sleep and sense of well-being, participants lost an average of 4 pounds each without increasing exercise habits or changing diet.
I don't know about you but a hot soak sounds way better than a holiday cross-fit session to me!
4 There Is Terme di Saturnia Spa Resort for a More Fanciful Ex-spa-rience
If wading around in rustic country pools isn't your bag or you have a phobia of nature (read:bugs) you can always make a trip to the Terme di Saturnia Health Resort located in the heart of the town. Prices range from 21 euro (half day) to 31 euro (weekends) for a pass that gives you access to the pool and spa.
Treatments range from 10 different types of massage to beauty treatments, facials and naturopathic consultations. For those who wish to spend a few days, there is also access to a fitness center and golf course available as well as lodgings that start at about 300 euro per night for a basic package that includes breakfast.
3 'Mangia Bene' at Michelin Rated Restaurant Bacchus e Ceres 2.0
Wading in the spa waters can be incredibly hunger inducing! The cure? The Tuscan Roman ristorante Bacco e Cerere 2.0.
It's #1 ranked by TripAdvisorites and carries 0 km (meaning locally produced) ingredients that deliver the highest quality taste that Tuscany has to offer.
Ranging from salumi boards to vegetarian delights to the ever-famous steak dishes the region is known for, you are sure to find something to satisfy every craving. At a cost of about 40 euro per person cost including vino and dessert, it is very good value.
Many visitors have commented on the quality of local ingredients as well as the high degree of professionalism and hospitality.
2 There is A 15th century Fresco in the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena
The church itself is a sight to behold and could be considered a work of art as well. Built between 1509-1734 initially by Jacopo Sansovino who was 1 of 4 top 'architects' who competed for the project.
Architects were really artists in that time as there was no distinctive architect profession. Due to a series of unfortunate structural/ financial events many artists were able to contribute to the project before its delayed completion in 1734.
The painting is a significant piece of history attributed to Siena born painter Benvenuto di Giovanni at the end of the 15th century but the exact date remains unclear.
1 It's in Tuscany.
Aside from the obvious and immense physical beauty of Tuscany, there is also much to be understood from its rich historical past. You can view ancient ruins, churches, monuments, castles, art while you learn about the birthplace of the Renaissance period.
Artists and inventors alike were born in this region like the famous Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei and Leonardo Da Vinci.
About a 1 hour drive from Saturnia and you will find the famous hilltop town of Montepulciano, where you can sip on red while enjoying the vistas. You can visit Orvieto's National Archaeological Museum and see original Etruscan artifacts or visit the underground network of medieval caves, tunnels and Etruscan wells.
Needless to say that you can achieve your need for rest and relaxation while also never getting bored in this famously enchanting region of Italy.
References: JustBreathe, TripAdvisor, Grassroute Adventures, termedisaturnia.it, American Psychology Association, New England Journal of Medicine, Quora