April 2, 2011 6 Comments
I’m getting ready to take a two-day vacation to Tuscany as I’m in dire need of fresh air. I’ve already seen the main towns (i.e. Florence, Siena, Lucca, Pisa, San Gimignano) so am researching some of the more off-the-beaten-track spots. I’ve never been to the Chianti region, so am looking into places there (suggestions, dear readers?) but am also interested in checking out a couple of the natural hot springs.
Tuscany (like most of Italy) is home to many of these thermal baths. The ancient Etruscans believed that the different waters could cure different ailments. Today, you have to pay to access most of these baths, but there are a few that are still open to whoever — which I prefer. I don’t really see the point in paying 20euros to rent a used bathrobe and slippers, and sit in stinky water inside a building (the water stinks because of the sulfur). I prefer to do it for free surrounded by trees and under the sun…or stars!
I came across THIS WEBSITE which outlines where the free places are. The only one I’ve been to — and probably the most well-known — is Saturnia:
Located in southern Tuscany, this warm waterfall is a gem. With a surrounding of empty fields and rolling hills, you can relax in one of the many pools — the higher up you go and closer to the source, the warmer the water is. In fact, the water is so warm that my husband and I took a dip in February, at night! I would highly recommend it …but bear in mind that the run back to your car in a wet bathing suit is NOT pleasant.
Despite Italy’s expansive rail system, you’ll need a car to get here.
The one downfall of these free, open-air baths are that there is no privacy to change out of your wet clothes. When we went mid-week in February, we were the only people there so felt comfortable changing in the car …that is until a school bus full of children pulled up and the curious kids began to pass by the car, in single-file.
<– For those interested in archeology and/or the Etruscans, a few kilometers away is the necropolis of Puntone: a burial ground from the sixth to fifth centuries BC.
As for where to stay, we were very comfortable at the nearby Fornacina Country House. This is a typical agriturismo — the best places to stay in Italy! Down a long and bumpy road, the Fornacina only has six rooms, all of which are adorably decorated. We opted to eat dinner at the house, made with only fresh and organic ingredients, most of which are grown in their garden. Being the only guests staying there that evening, we got a private four-course meal served next to the fireplace. Very romantic!
I have also eaten in the town center. Finding a place to eat ended up being a silly experience: On another trip with my mother, I decided to ask the next person I passed on the street to suggest a place for lunch. The next person was the old man who pumps gas at the little station. Figuring he was a local, I asked him for a recommendation. He picked at oil-stained fingernails before turning his weather-beaten face to me and asked, “Are you looking for pasta, meat, or pizza?” He had a different recommendation for each. We were in the mood for meat, so he sent us to Da Mario on Via Mazzini, where our waiter grilled lamb on the open fire next to our table. Delicious!
So for me, the bar has already been set high for Tuscan vacations. Let’s hope I can find some other great places for my upcoming trip …I’ll report back!
Where are your favorite places in Tuscany? Leave a comment!