Italian land and nature: Siena Province and its Terme
- WTI Magazine #165 Jul 24, 2023
Marvelous Medieval borgoes, lush nature that transforms into a dreamlike landscape, with hot springs immersed in the Tuscan countryside – these are the typical traits of the Province of Siena. Nature, art, relaxation, beauty and wellness combine to create the magic formula that has long attracted innumerable tourists to the most exclusive spots in Tuscany to enjoy the tranquility and charm of this green environment.
Various public hot springs abound in this area, free and accessibile to everyone; these are genuine oases for those seeking respite and ways to care for their wellbeing, set within a gorgeous ambience. To begin with, Bagni San Filippo rises up near Monte Amiata, inside the splendid UNESCO World Heritage Site of Val d'Orcia.
Totally awash in nature, amongst trees and rocks that intersperse with waterfalls, the zone running toward the Valley begins to beget waters that spill into the Fosso Bianco, a creek inside a deep wood where more hot springs (some natural, some artificial) pop up one after the other. The symbol of this zone is Balena Bianca (or White Whale), the name of the most suggestive and evocative of the waterfalls here; the Balena Bianca seems but a large mass with a crustacean's mouth, a form that arose from the thermal water's sediments. Rendering the entire scene even more spectacular is the contrast between tones of green and white and the colors of the thermal waters that mix with the creek waters.
At the confine with Siena lies San Casciano dei Bagni, where visitors will find a total of 42 hot springs, making it the third-largest thermal complex in Europe based on water quantity.
Known since Antiquity, its springs were discovered by the Etruscans, and loved by Emperor Augustus. Today these open baths hidden in dense, thriving forests, and the elegant private thermal centers located in pristine wilderness make San Casciano a preferred destination for spa lovers.
Bagno Vignoni is another fantastic little Medieval village. With its characteristic piazza boasting an enormous 16th-Century thermal bathtub (no longer in use, however), Bagno Vignoni is truly fascinating.The town sits on a volcanic fault line that, since Etruscan times, has meant its importance as a touristic destination. From the fault’s high point originates a spectacular system of small waterfalls that carry water all the way to the underlying valley. Here boiling water collects in natural basins, and acquires a magnificent and cristalline shade of sky blue.
Finally, in the Comune of Monticiano are the Bagni di Petriolo, situated on the banks of the Farma stream that flows into the River Merse. Cited by both Cicero and Martial, these open terme can be found on an inlet of the stream; the waters, loaded with hydrogen sulfide among other compounds, arrive at a temperature of 43º C or 109º F. Around the 15th Century, the first thermal establishment was built in Bagni di Petriolo; during this age Renaissance, the baths took on notable prestige, so much so that even members of the Medici and Gonzaga Families flocked here.
Besides its public hot springs, the Province of Siena exhibits a wealth of famous localities with grand private thermal centers: from Chianciano to Montepulciano and the magnificent sites along the beautiful Valdichiana. Not to mention the Comune of Rapolano, which has its own thermal locales.
This enchanting place offers a number of other astounding and breathtaking sights, such as the Crete Senesi that, together with the marvelous city of Siena (famous for its Palio), were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The entire territory is studded with typical Medieval borgoes that are immersed in the quiet of Tuscan fields and pastures. First among them is the little city of Pienza, itself a UNESCO Site, primarily for its center.
Chiusi, a peaceful and cozy town, is one among several communities – that include Montepulciano and Chianciano – in Valdichiana.