A freeloader’s guide to Tuscany’s natural spas

Toscana’s Natural Thermal Spas – Sole Toscana

 
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Toscana’s Natural Thermal Spas

As if Tuscany didn’t offer enough to see and do, there’s also a wealth of natural thermal spas to explore. Indeed, these spas (terme, in Italian) offer an ideal counterbalance to the many hours of gazing upon beautiful buildings, exquisite works of art, and idyllic scenery. A few days, or even an afternoon, at a spa will help you recoup your strength and leave you ready to face the rigors of the day once more.

For example, at Monsummano, near Pistoia, 33 miles (53km) north-west of Florence, there’s the Grotta Giusti, a vast underground cave, consisting of three sections named in honor of Dante’s masterpiece: Paradise, Purgatory, and Hell. Temperatures rise as you proceed from 84 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit (28°C-34°C), leading to Limbo, where it’s always 97 degrees Fahrenheit (36ºC). Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A day-ticket costs about $100, and also includes the open-air thermal pool with waterfall and a 20-minute massage. Bring a swimsuit; bathing caps, long white cotton robes, slippers, and towels are provided.

Then there is Bagno Vignoni, which offers a different take on natural thermal spas. Winter or Summer. Check out the mineral pool, which is accessed via the Hotel Posta Marcucci. This is open to non-residents, and affords splendid views of the Tuscan countryside. Alternatively, reserve a room at the Posta Marcucci in for a more in-depth experience.

Finally, located in the heart of the Maremma district of southern Tuscany, close to the border with Lazio, check out the thermal waters of Saturnia, which have been providing succor, at temperatures up to 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees C), since Etruscan times. Head for the Cascate del Mulino (the Windmill Falls) and experience the rush of these spectacular turquoise falls, that step down via little pools as they descend the slope, free of charge.

You’ll need a little preparation. There are no changing rooms. So, wear your bathing suit underneath your clothes. This way you can change rapidly when you get there. Since the stones on the bottom of the pools have been worn shiny by the rushing water over the centuries, they can be very slippery, bring those flip-flops! Don’t forget a large towel for the shower afterwards and remove any silver jewelry to avoid any tarnish from the soothing, sulfur-rich water.

There is a small café close to these springs. There’s also a shower, that will help you freshen up afterward, leaving behind luscious, silky-smooth skin, and the memory of an unforgettable day out.

This is just a short selection of the natural springs and thermal waters in Tuscany. There are many more. Check out for example Petriolo, San Filippo, and Rapolano Terme. Each has a lot to offer. And if you like natural thermal spas and mineral treatments, consider also venturing to the island of Ischia, off of Naples. Here, in an area of about 17 square miles (46 sq. km.) you are spoiled for choice. There is both the Giardini Poseidon, which boasts 20 pools set in verdant splendor, the water temperature ranging from 82 degrees to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (28°C-40°C), or Negombo, which also includes a secluded sandy beach, and also has about 15 pools and waterfalls. Enjoy!

 

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Cappella di San Gemolo, Ganna, near Varese, Italy

A quick visit to admire the fall foliage on the Via Valganna, between Ganna and Induno Olona, near Varese, Italy offers us the opportunity to see the chapel of San Gemolo. Well-signposted, and perfectly visible from the road, this tiny chapel, dedicated to Saint Gemolo, had long been our objective. However, due to the fast-flowing, high-speed traffic on this road that offers lovely views of the countryside (to those, few, who drive adhering to the speed limits!), had always prevented us from stopping.

Not to be confused with the Badia (abbey church) of San Gemolo, which is in the little town of Ganna itself, a couple of kilometers away — the chapel was constructed during the 14th century but underwent much remodelling over the years. What we see today is, allegedly, a faithful restoration, executed in the 1960s, bringing it back to its original look.

Locked and with heavy grilles on the windows, the chapel offers little of its interiors to those peering in. There is also no indication as to when the heavy wooden doors might be opened. (The only image I have been able to find of the interior is on the bottom right of this page.

Adjacent to the chapel is a little artificial lake, with a couple of picnic tables provided by the Campo dei Fiori Regional Park (Parco Regionale Campo dei Fiori), which oversees the area, and is a member of Alparc, the Alpine Parks network.

Magical Morcote, Canton Ticino, Switzerland, seen from Porto Ceresio, Italy, across Lake Lugano

porto ceresio, lago, lugano,morcote, ticino, canton, italia, svizzera, switzerland, italy

More about Morcote:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morcote

https://www.ticino.ch/en/commons/details/The-village-of-Morcote/2713.html

This is what Lonely Planet wrote in 2016: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/news/2016/10/11/beautiful-village-switzerland/

See also: Castello di Morcote: http://castellodimorcote.ch/.

Photo taken from Porto Ceresio, Italy.

More on PC:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porto_Ceresio

in Italian: http://www.comune.portoceresio.va.it/?q=node/10

More on Lake Lugano: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Lugano/

Il Giardino della Valle: a secret garden in Cernobbio on Lake Como

This is a place we found entirely by accident, on a day-trip to Cernobbio, on Lake Como: we just followed the signs in the centre of this small town to the “Giardino della Valle”. A ten-minute walk, past lovely old houses, slightly uphill, but no matter, and we reached this delightful public park that hugs the banks of the torrent that carries melted snow from the mountains above to the lake below.

The Giardino della Valle (the Garden in the Valley) is a labour of love on the part of one local woman who, thirty years ago, disgusted by the fact that the area was being used as an illegal rubbish dump, decided to crowd out the garbage, replacing it with trees and plants, adding little bridges across the stream, as well as the occasional bench, where visitors can sit and ponder a while, and enjoy the gifts of nature. The result, is a quiet, pretty place, which also features a little free library: donate a book and take a book. Access to the Giardino della Valle is from Via Plinio, or the first left off Via Regina after Villa d’Este in Cernobbio, on Lake Como.

More at: Giardino della Valle on Facebook.