Bathing in divine water
Bagno Vignoni and its thousand year old thermal tradition
Apart from its enchanting scenery and its many and varied cultural and culinary attractions, Val d’Orcia is also an ideal location for a thermal bath
– for pure pleasure or for medical reasons.
The south west corner of Val d’Orcia is dominated by the 1740 m high Monte Amiata, an extinct volcano and holy mountain for the ancient Etruscans. The surrounding area is a geothermal attraction in its own right, with a rich offer of warm and cold thermal springs
with a wide range of properties. The sudden appearance of geysers erupting from the bowels of the mountain, which instilled in the ancients great respect for the powers of nature, is a much rarer occurrence today, now that the rising steam has been harnessed as an eco-friendly source of heat. But the thousand year old thermal tradition, enjoyed over the centuries by Etruscans, Romans and medieval pilgrims as well, following the historical Via Francigena
on their way to and from Rome, is still very much alive today.
Bathing like the Pope
After the Etruscans came the Romans, and it was thanks to their highly developed bath-house culture that the ancient cult of what we now call wellness remained in vogue and reached new heights of luxury. A special gem amongst the numerous thermal springs in the south of Tuscany is Bagno Vignoni
. Actually a hamlet of San Quirico d’Orcia, with a grand total of forty inhabitants, Bagno Vignoni remained a popular spa from the Roman period and throughout the Middle Ages – thanks to its location on the Via Francigena, once the most important road from Rome to Santiago de Compostela, Canterbury and Jutland. The simple pilgrims and travelling merchants were not the only ones who eased their tired limbs in the hot thermal waters; another frequent visitor was St. Catherine of Siena
, to whom is dedicated a little chapel under the loggia of Bagno Vignoni. In the XV century Pope Pius II Piccolomini
had a palace built there, while Lorenzo the Magnificent
went there for relief from the gout to which the Medicis were genetically disposed.
Piazza of water
Even in those days the little spa had a big attraction, one that has probably remained unique to this day: a main square of steaming water or, to be more precise, a square in the shape of one big thermal pool. That is the collecting basin for the 52-degree-hot thermal water. Before surfacing from a depth of one thousand metres in the area around Bagno Vignoni, it spends about ten years into the underground, covering the forty kilometres from the Monte Amiata to Bagno Vignoni and dissolving minerals and sulphur compounds from the limestone rock on its way.
The Medici prince Lorenzo il Magnifico, St. Catherine of Siena and Pope Pius II enjoyed divine bathing pleasures.
Bathing on the medieval Piazza d’Acqua has been forbidden for over twenty years now, but there are several exquisite restaurants located around the pool, where mysterious vapours rise in the cool of the evening, whilst guests can enjoy a glass of Brunello di Montalcino or Nobile di Montepulciano on a unique natural background. The famous Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky also submitted to the magic of the place, which he chose as the setting for several scenes of his cult film “Nostalghia”.
The mixture is the key
The secret of the thermal waters of Bagno Vignoni lies in its concentrated, yet balanced mix of sulphur compounds, bicarbonates and sulphates. In combination with a natural source temperature of 52°C, it has outstanding therapeutic properties
for treating the skin and respiratory tract, stimulating the circulatory and immune systems, strengthening the connective tissues and vascular system, and bringing relief to pains of the bones, joints and back.
Whether used for bathing or applied in the form of packs, wraps or hydrotherapies, etc., Bagno Vignoni’s flowing fountain of youth has a calming and relaxing effect on body and soul