The Saturnia thermal springs - the "Terme di Saturnia" are not just a mere natural geological phenomenon, but were formed by gods. I told you Maremma was full of treasures and special places!
The Maremma legend has its origins in Italic mythology and tells that the thermal springs were formed during a violent quarrel between the gods Saturn and Zeus (Jupiter) at the point where a thunderbolt hurled by Zeus fell to the ground.
Today the Saturnia waterfalls, pools and natural baths are as much loved as they were in Neolithic, Etruscan and Roman times.
And they remain free.
The waters that feed the spa and baths originate from springs two hundred metres below the earth and are heated by the thermal activity of Maremma's volcanoe Monte Amiata - the second largest volcano in Italy. They flow at a rate of eight hundred litres per second filling the individual baths and pools of the "Le Cascate del Mulino" (The Mill Falls) and then the "Le Cascate del Gorillo" waterfalls with waters at a constant 37.5 °C.
Containing the minerals sulphur, carbon, sulphate and the gases of hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide, they are considered to have therapeutic properties for skin, respiratory tract, blood circulation and rheumatic ailments, as well as cosmetic and wellbeing effects on the mind and body. No run of the mill place for a dip then!
My first visit was on a Friday night, when this photograph was taken. I'd spent a fantastic day at Pitigliano and the Vie Cave and on my way home decided to visit the springs - I highly recommend this as a great itinerary for a Maremma day out. It was a glorious May evening (Spring is one of the very best times to visit Maremma and Tuscany) and when I first put my feet into the swishing blue white waters the sensation was wonderful and brought an instant huge smile to my face that stayed for days. I even skipped back to my car (I'm well over 40 years of age)!.... the magic of Maremma.
Saturnia thermal springs
You can sit in the midst of the gushing waterfalls themselves, in the baths and pools that they fill, or the streams that their waters in turn fall into. There are even some baths that are lovely and shallow: perfect for toddlers. The gods may have been fighting when they made this place, but the result is a relaxing paradise for everyone.
Saturnia thermal springs: photo by kind permission of aurelio candido
To avoid the busiest times it is best to go during the week rather than at the weekend, and if you can, try for early morning or late afternoon. But even when they are busy there is always room for everyone. Or go in the depths of winter and take a hot bath surrounded by the splendour of the Maremma countryside.
On a practical note: best to remove any silver jewellery or it will blacken and keep you camera in its case when not in use.
Along the Scansano to Manciano to Pitigliano road (the 322) there are two sign posted routes: the principle one at Montemerano, about 6 kilometres from Manciano, and the second (that joins the first) about 10 kilometres after Manciano on the road to Pitigliano.
And, although there are signs along this route, when you get close there are no none!
UPDATE October 2012: there is now one very small brown information road sign for the "Cascate del Gorillo" on the junction, but blink and you will miss it!
As the road takes you down a hill to the valley there is a fabulous view of the thermal baths and springs on your left: a great place for a panoramic photo. There is a small parking area and two benches, but it is best to take your photo on the way back up as the bend at this juncture is a blind one in which to do a turn and park.
And then the smell of the sulphur in the air hits you so, even if you haven't caught sight of the "terme", you know you are close!
The photograph at the top of this page was taken from the view point.
Down in the valley you will pass on your right the grand entrance with a decorative waterfall to the Terme di Saturnia Spa and Golf Resort, and then probably see bathers in costumes or with towels and bath robes on etc, but no sign! The turn to the natural Saturnia thermal springs is on your left tucked into a right-hand bend and marked as a dead-end road. You will have passed it as soon as the road starts to incline again. Alternatively, look for where everyone is coming from or heading to and they are there!
There is very limited free parking along the short access road, but a large free car park at the end of the dead end: take the right turn before the bar. Just be aware of the water erosion ruts in its surface and don't leave any valuables in sight.
Otherwise your only other option is to find a spot along the road along which you have just come, but that is just as limited. On a busy day you might bemoan not being able to find a space, but not developing this site has avoided destroying it.
At the very end of the access road there is an outdoor bar and snack establishment with seating that serves cafe, fizzy drinks, ice-creams, and slices of pizza. It isn't the most attractive looking place I have seen, but it serves its purpose if you have run out of water etc.
Your closest restaurant, osteria, trattoria and pizzeria etc options for lunch and dinner are the restaurants in Saturnia itself - Saturnia restaurants page - or in Montermerano - Montermerano restaurants.
If relaxing in the hot Saturnia waters in the luxury setting of a spa resort with every spa treatment you could think of on hand is your kind of heaven, then the Termi di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort across the road from the thermal springs is the place for you: Spa Resort Italy.
Try the superb Hotel La Fonte Del Cerro only a short walk (400 metres) from the falls with air-conditioned accommodation, your own private entrance and a Tuscan farmhouse courtyard in which to relax. Visit in the winter and there is an open fireplace to warm those toes after your dip in the pools. Rated a high 9 out of 10, this Saturnia hotel also has self-catering residence apartments and serves a home-made buffet bed and breakfast option.
Explore some more...