I am an English-speaking, freelance food writer based in Rome. I love writing articles on various aspects of Italian culture.
"For us to go to Italy and to penetrate into Italy is like a most fascinating act of self-discovery".
— D.H. Lawrence
A great deal of folk-law surrounds the healing effects of thermal springs, however the waters have proven anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti parasitic properties and are especially effective against psoriasis, dermatitis and help heal damaged skin.
Certain springs have fine silica mud that cleanses pores and have exfoliating properties that help buff the outer layers of the epidermis leaving it feeling energetic and tingly .
As the English writer and traveller D.H Lawrence observed leaving the safety of the larger cities and heading out into the countryside can be a rewarding experience for the traveller willing to venture further afield.
Italy's geographic location with a long line of grinding tectonic plates makes it a very seismically active place. Additionally a series of active and in-active volcanoes are located within its shores.
Gurgling deep bellow ground pools of geothermal groundwater rises to the surface at a number of locations creating hot springs. Visitors who are prepared to hire a car and make the trip from Rome can bask in the naturally warm mineral rich water. Here are some of the best, both natural unmanaged springs and organised spa facilities and what to expect when one visits.
First things first, if you are visiting one of the organised venues listed you will find excellent post swim shower facilities, but for the more remote free sites you will need a bit of kit. Get yourself an old ruck sack, two, one litre size water bottles, a tent peg and a roll of string to secure your stuff, towels, an inflatable rubber ring or swimming aid pillow, soap on a roap, extra clothing and pack a hat, sunglasses and Crocs style waterproof sandals. Getting a waterproof cover or case for your mobile gadgets is a good idea but go for a version with attachable Lanyard, or string attachable cord.
The heat from the thermal spring will dehydrate the body so keep a bottle of fresh water for fluids and one with fresh water to rinse with after the final swim of the day.
Crocs™ founded in 2002 are clog style sandals that are really soft on wet soggy hot feet and have odor-resistant qualities. With over 300 million pairs sold, nothing really beats the sturdy build of these sandals that both float loose on water and offer a good grip on the slippery mud at the edge of your chosen rock pool. In a thermal spring or spa, they also offer a hygienic way to walk around without walking with bare feet.
The Definitive Spa List
- Acque Albule in Tivoli
- Thermal Baths of Cretone
- Thermal Baths of Stigliano
- Ficoncella Thermal Baths
- check the links for opening times and entry details.
Via Tiburtina Valeria
Acque Albule in Tivoli
An easy drive or long bus ride from central Rome these baths have some of the highest flows of thermic water in Italy.
The water enters the complex with a slightly whitish colour due to soluble gases and minerals being in suspension in the water. It has extensive facilities, a number of pools and shower and changing areas and a restaurant and bar. Plenty of various sized bath robes for hire mean the dedicated spa visitor can leave the spa kit at home though water proof sandals are nice to have.
Plenty of space to sunbathe on pool side loungers and hire or purchase of towels available. Because of the high flow and quantity of spring water it is one of the most abundant thermal facilities in Europe.
Acque Albule – Centro Termale Le Terme Di Roma
Via Tiburtina Valeria, km 22,700 - 00011 - Tivoli Terme - (Rome)
Thermal Baths of Cretone (Terme di Sabine di Cretone)
Thermal Baths of Sabine Cretone
Set within the stunningly beautiful countryside north of Rome an area known as Sabina, this complex is a series of large pools complete with numerous fountains, changing and shower facilities and a restaurant bar. Therapeutically the water is recommended for helping remove mucus and to assist with ear nose and throat issues.
It is worth noting that these sulphurous, hypothermal and bacteriologically pure waters are the same splash pools that in ancient times the legendary Sabine Women spent their days bathing and eating in, becoming beautiful members of the ancient Sabine tribe who famously mingling with nearby Romans.
The area is also known for having exceptional high quality Olive oil. A great day out and an easy drive from Rome.
Terme di Sabine di Cretone
Via dell'Acqua Solfurea, snc - 00018 - Palombara Sabina - (Rome)
Tel: 0774 615100
Terme di Saturnia
OK so this terme is one of the longest to drive too from Rome, but is one of the most luxurious in Italy. The free section is set in the magnificent landscape of Tuscany with a natural set of waterfalls and rock pools that allow the bather to relax in the sun and look at the view. Some excellent resturants and small hotels in the nearby village help with hunger pangs when one is finished in the water.
A large Michelin star hotel diverts some of the hot springs water through its own set of pools fountains and sauna facilities.
Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort
Loc. Follonata, 58014 Saturnia, Manciano. Grosseto (GR) – Italy
Tel. +39 0564-600111
Bagni di Stigliano
Thermal Baths of Stigliano
This Spa uses the thermal water from a group of springs in a nearby valley, the springs that provide the source of the spa water are:
- Bagno Grande (39 °C),
- Bagnarello or Grotta (53 °C)
- Fangaia (55 °C).
The water has some of the highest levels of Iodine in Europe. Various therapies are available at a cost including Fangotherapy and Aerosol based breathing treatments. The complex is more expensive compared to other options on the list.
Thermal Baths of Stigliano
Località Bagni di Stigliano, 2 - 00060 - Canale Monterano - (Rome)
36 - 58 °C
Ficoncella Thermal Baths
Str. della Ficoncella, 00053 Civitavecchia RM
Ficoncella Thermal Baths
A smaller thermal bath complex that dates back to Roman times.
Free pools can be found or visit the organised facility with a total of five pools of various temperatures and showers on site. Entry price is just 1.50 euros. Bathers are required to wash before entering the baths, however facilities are basic so it is best to bring your own kit. Because of its much hotter water temperature this is one to visit in autumn or at the end of the summer season though it is a busy venue on Sundays. Safety wise it is best to enter the baths gradually to adjust to the heat and limit time in the water. The spring water is a very pungent with high levels of sulphate-bicarbonate-alkaline minerals. DIY Fangotherapy or mud bathing is possible and it has a small coffee shop too.
Worth a trip it if you want to also visit the Roman Ruins close by at the now defunct Taurine Baths. Views from the top of the hill of the nearby town of Civitavecchia, and with night opening till 2am the chance to watch the stars and feel the wind coming in from the sea.
Daily: 8am to 8pm.
Nights: 30th June- 2nd September, Sunday-Thursday 8am till 2am Friday-Saturday 8am till 12am.
50°C. - 60°C.
Fangotherapy what is it?
Fango from the Italian word for mud is a type of Balneotherapy that uses mud clays smeared on the body and hot and cold water to treat disease.
Wait to jump in: If you are at a free site that rock pool may be shallower than you think and could have unseen boulders beneath the water.
Test the water: Allow the body to adapt to water that is nudging 37 degrees and check with other bathers. Be aware of bathing soon after eating due to cramping and for those with low blood pressure consider that the hot water will lower your pressure further.
Don’t drink it straight: The spring water is made up of minerals and gas in solution that can have a powerful laxative effect. Lookout for water taps with signs indicating drinkable water or “Acqua potabile”. At a free site resting in thermal pools ask yourself if anyone has relieved themselves in the water upstream.
Plan your entry into a natural pool: Even though the water looks tempting look for access points and be aware of slippery surfaces like algae and mud.
Limit or avoid drinking alcohol: It is tempting to drink a cool beer or glass of wine but you will dehydrate even faster with alcohol in your body, you are far better off replacing lost fluids with fresh water or fruit juice. Of course the chance of drowning is increased when intoxicated.
Don’t bathe alone: Relaxing in warm water it is surprisingly easy to fall asleep, sit with friends that way you can keep an eye on each other.
Terme di Trastevere and donkey milk
And finally, no article on bathing would be complete without mentioning assess milk. The ultimate spa bathing experince is now possible, the chance to spend time lounging in donkeys milk, an option available at a venue spa in Rome. As one might expect it is however very expensive this is because the semi equines that supply the magic ingredient don’t make that much milk but thanks to the largest herd in Europe it is now available from a new spa in Trastevere near the center of the city.
This rather special milk has long been known for its health benifits and it has been used to strengthen weak infants and the elderly and infirm. Of course the Egyptian queen Cleopatra is most famous for this kind of soak but less well known are the the nourishing cosmetic properties and benefits to the skin. Priced at an eye watering €600 for a 50 minute soak one may well need to smash ones moral compass before paying and deciding to trying this, the best option might be to pass and try instead a wine bathing experience in a wooden tub that is also available from the same spa.
© 2017 Adele Barattelli
Adele Barattelli (author) from L'Aquila, Italy on June 14, 2017:
Thanks for your comment Bill, I would recommend The Thermal Baths of Cretone if you have a car. It is outside of Rome but no more than an hours drive North on the Autostrada.
Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on June 14, 2017:
How interesting. We visited a Thermal Spring north of Rome in Tuscany years ago but was not aware of these closer to Rome. Wonderful hub for something unique to do on a trip to Italy.