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Day Tripping around Tuscany: Spas

spas_in_tuscanyAs the rain beats down and the fireplace is lit for the first time this year, thoughts turn to warmer days, or more pragmatically, to solutions for the months ahead: herbal teas, hot chocolates, woollen bonnets, comforters, blankets, warm socks. We switch our light summer shoes or sandals for Doc Martens and rubber rain boots. It's an ideal time to go to the spa, especially when colds and flus threaten. At Sant’Alessio (near Lucca’s Borgo Giannotti), the Ego Spa offers a soothing indoor tropical paradise, with hydro-massage, Turkish steam-bath, sauna, fruit-flavoured shower, minty misty shower, massages and herb teas. But if you want a more natural Italian experience with ageold healing waters, spas and health resorts abound. The Italians having been “taking the waters” since Roman times. Travelling from south to north, we offer some of the more popular resorts for you to choose from. Without a car, it is still possible to reach these spas. In some cases one must take a taxi or bus from the train station; for others a short walk is all that’s necessary.


Saturnia, near Manciano, is a sophisticated resort where you can pamper yourself with all the resort’s offerings, or you might choose to enjoy nature itself, by seeking out a steamy stream whose boulders await like lounge chairs for intrepid adventurers. Saturnia is south of Siena, near the beautiful country roads leading to Rome. Sulphurous waters (37°) cascade over rocks. If you decide to tackle the river, bring rubbersouled shoes. Once your body succumbs to the relaxing flow of water, you may find your knees become a little week.


Bagno Vignoni, a tiny borgo within San Quirico d’Orcia, has an ancient pool at its center, where one would expect to see the town square. The pool’s waters pass through a series of mills that are probably as old as Rome. In the 12th century, the lords of Tintinnano owned the baths. Caterina da Siena was brought here by her mother, who hoped to dissuade her from her religious vocation. (Maybe it was a chic place to go even then?) Pope Pius “Il Piccolomini” and Lorenzo “Il Magnifico” came here in the late 1400’s. The bicarbonate-sulphate-alkaline water is over 50°. Resisting the sulphuric fumes, one soon relaxes in the large pool, whose water is remmended for rheumatism, neuralgia, and “internal irrigation.” A trail from Bagno Vignoni leads down to the River Orcia, where a rectangular pool contains the hot thermal water.


Casciana Terme, in the center of the Pisan Province near Andrea Bocelli’s Teatro del Silenzio, is a community-oriented spa where families come to enjoy the large openair pool with its water jets, as well as the various indoor therapeutic facilities. The hotels and restaurants surrounding the town square are pleasingly unpretentious and traditional.


San Giuliano Terme, on the seaside of the tunnel between Lucca and Pisa, is an elegant little town dominated by its spa, easily accessible by foot from the train station. The spa was frequented by famous Romantic poets. The Hammam of the Grand Dukes is a suggestive steam bath in a small thermal grotto, accessible through a short passageway that was built in the 18th century and rediscovered many years ago. A small, constant cascade of thermal water at 38°C fills an illuminated stone pool where one can bathe for a relaxing 20 minutes.


Some say that a volcano under the town of Bagni di Lucca is the source of its hot springs. The thermal spas were restored by Matilde di Canossa in the 11th century, then they were further restored in the 16th century. Bagni became really popular after the French Revolution. Napoleon and Elisa Bacciocchi restored the spas between 1805 and 1845, and called the area Italy’s Switzerland. Illustrious guests from the Bagni heydays were Pascoli, Shelley, Byron, Puccini, Mascagni, Heine, and Henry James. Nowadays one can enjoy the curative, regenerative powers of the principle spring, “Il Doccione.” At 54°, the waters’ properties of calcium-bicarbonate-sulphate are especially recommended for rheumatic and stressrelated pathologies. Grotta Grande and Grotta Paolina (named for Napoleon’s sister) are a bit cooler, at 40° and 47°. Bagni Caldi’s indoor pool can be enjoyed on the bleakest of days (although it is closed between January and February). Bagni’s other spas and therapeutic centers are Jean Varraud (which sells a range of beauty products), Centro Ouida (named for the romantic French-British novelist buried in Bagni’s English cemetery), Villa Demidoff, and the Villaggio Globale, whose medical staff offer thermal baths, massages, acupuncture, courses in yoga, biodance, rebirthing, rolfing sacro-cranial work....


1. Saturnia. Nearest train station is Orbetello, 34 km distant.


2. Bagno Vignoni. Nearest train station is Buonconvento, 27 km distant.


3. Casciana Terme. Nearest train station is Pontedera, 20 km distant.


4. Uliveto Terme. Nearest train station is Casciana, 6km distant.


5. San Giuliano Terme. Nearest train station is San Giuliano Terme, 300 meters.


6. Grotta Giusti at Monsummano Terme. Nearest train station is Montecatini Terme, 4 km distant.


7. Montecatini Terme (Regina, Tettuccio, Rinfresco, Leopoldina). Nearest train station is Montecatini Terme, 300 meters.


8. Bagni Caldi, Bagni di Lucca. Nearest train station is Bagni di Lucca Fornoli), 5 km distant.


9. Equi Terme. Nearest train station is Equi Terme, 250 meters.


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