Long ago, the gods, Jupiter and Saturn, were in the midst of battle. Suddenly, one of Jupiter’s lightning bolts fell from the sky and struck the ground in Tuscany. The bolt opened up a portal to Hell, causing steam and sulfur water to come gushing forth. Thus, the Saturnia hot springs were born.
Now I’ve never been to Hell myself, but I can honestly say nothing about this beautiful place reminds anyone of hell. Unless you hate wearing a bathing suit and crowds of people, then it might.
All joking aside, the Saturnia Hot Springs have been around as far back as 60 B.C. and probably much longer, but that was the first time historical records mention the site. The area was initially under Greek rule, before the Etruscans took over, and then later the Romans, in the 2nd century B.C. Eventually, Saturnia became a criminal hotbed in the 1300s before the local authorities burnt the place to the ground. Sometime during the 16th-century, it was brought under the control of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
It was during this time the local superstition about the hot springs began to gain traction. The smell of sulfur has long been assorted with the Devil and Hell, so, many people believed the water’s sulfur smell must have some connection. We now know this smell is caused by the minerals dissolved in the water, but I can see why this would be a frightening place for those people long ago.
The hot springs are located close to the volcano of Mount Amiata. Though this volcano is, for all extents and purposes, extinct, the magma and molten rock beneath the ground acts as the heating agent for Saturnia’s hot springs. This helps keep the water at almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or 37.5 degrees Celsius, year-round. Although these hot springs are the most popular, the volcano heats two other hot springs in Bagni San Filippo and Bagnore. Keep that in mind if you’re not one for crowds, and trust me there will be crowds.
One reason for the crowds is the experience is free, including parking. The other two hot springs are free as well. At Saturnia, the water runs down the hillside into over ten separate pools along the way. Swimmers will have plenty of room to enjoy a pool to themselves or share with other travelers.
Past visitors suggest bringing water shoes or purchase some when you get to the site as the bottoms of the pools are rough. There is a restroom available, but no lockers, so if you drove a car, it would be best to keep your personal belongings locked inside. There is also an on-site bar for food purchases, but outside food is welcome as well. Also, If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, plan to arrive around 7am or show up around sunset.
Overall the hot springs are a suitable location for a variety of travelers. You just need to claim your spot, settle in, and let the water carry your troubles away.