Have you ever planned a trip to a place you’ve dreamed of visiting, and deep down inside you knew there was no way it could live up to the picture in your mind? Like, you’ve built it up so big that you know reality will be a bit of a disappointment? That’s how I felt about Terme di Saturnia – one of the most famous natural springs in Tuscany. I came across a breathtaking picture of the springs on Pinterest a few years ago, and when we started planning out trip to Italy I realized the springs were only a few hours away from where we were staying in Lubriano! I was determined to visit, and one afternoon we had a few free hours to explore so we jumped in our rental car and headed off to Saturnia. We drove through the mountains and fought a bit of car sickness to get there, but as we rounded a mountain and caught our first glimpse of the springs in the valley below I knew it was going to be worth it!
These springs have been around for a long time. A really long time! Roman mythology says that the hot springs were created by lightning bolts. During a violent quarrel between Jupiter and Saturn, the bolts thrown towards Saturn missed, causing the formations. But they were here even before the Romans! The area around the springs is thought to have been inhabited by the Etruscans. (#funfacts!)
The waterfalls are made of several natural pools of warm, milky blue water. And they’re open to the public (and free!) throughout the entire year. The springs come out of the earth at 98.6 °F (37 °C), so the temperature was perfect when we eased in on an unseasonably warm October afternoon. We soaked with strangers from all over the world and were all disappointed when the sun started to set, and we realized we should probably start the long drive back through the mountains. We had spent the whole day exploring and didn’t plan our stop to the Saturnia Hot Springs, but as we were leaving that morning I threw bathing suits for me and Kingston in the car… just in case. Anderson didn’t bring one, and King and I were so bummed that he didn’t get in the springs with us. He totally could’ve, because we saw quite a few men in their undies. In fact, as we were leaving we met a couple from San Francisco, and the husband was rocking his whitey tightys without a care in the world.
How to visit the Saturnia Hot Springs in Tuscany:
Saturnia is half-way between Rome and Florence in the countryside. So renting a car is going to be the easiest option. Getting the correct location in your GPS is the first feat you must conquer-ha! We found out that when talking about these springs, several different names are used for the same place. Terme di Saturnia is the name I’d read everywhere. But that’s actually the name of the luxury hotel and spa at the springs. Our GPS took us there, and I started to panic a little because the day was getting away from us and we didn’t know where to go. We asked some locals, and they sort of helped. Not really! So here’s what you want to do to make the best of your time: Put “Cascate del Mulino” into your navigation system. If I understand correctly, this is the name of the waterfalls at the springs. And if you prefer to use the Latitude and Longitude, this is it: 42°38’52.8″N 11°30’46.8″E.
Okay, now that you’re going to the right place you need to think about what to bring. If I could do it all again, here’s what I would pack:
- A picnic. There’s a snack shack with lots of quick-bite options and junk food, but this area is perfect for a picnic! Stop for supplies on the way.
- Bring towels for your picnic and for when you get out of the water. Since the springs were warm the air felt much colder than it really was when we got out. Most people (including us) seemed to be changing clothes in their cars, but there are some bathrooms by the parking lot!
- The ground in and around the springs is covered in tiny round stones, and they hurt when you step on them. There’s no way to avoid them, so bring some water shoes or flip flops. You will thank me later!
- The water is thought to be healing/therapeutic because of it’s high sulfur content, and I’ve heard that it can be damaging to jewelry and clothes. Our swimsuits smelled really strong when we left but after washing them a few times the smell is completely gone. One lady we met told us that she ruined a swimsuit on a previous trip, so I just wanted to mention it.
- Also, if you bring a camera or your phone (and OF COURSE you will!) just know that you won’t be able to keep a very close eye on it if you leave it on the banks. There are a lot of people and there’s a lot to see, so you’ll be distracted! You might want to take some pictures then lock your valuables in your car.
I cannot recommend this place enough! It’s an experience my family will never forget. We keep referring to it as “once in a lifetime,” but if we’re ever able to go back to this part of Italy we will definitely visit the Saturnia Hot Springs in Tuscany again. And I hope you’re able to experience it at some point too!