Sasso Pisano in Maremma Tuscany takes you into Pisa territory and a landscape of hot rocks from which geothermal steam streams up hill sides and boiling waters feed age old Etruscan and Roman thermal pools. It is anything but coffee table book quintessential Tuscany and isn't the prettiest Tuscan town around these parts, but it will delight lovers of medieval history and geology.
And those who like their waters hot: for this unknown rural haven of peace and quite is also home to the hottest natural thermal spring waters in the whole of Tuscany.
And when I say age old thermal pools, the archaeological excavated Etruscan and Roman temple spa here is considered by some to be the largest in the world.
And it is home to a rare mineral.
Now, don't I always take you to places full of surprises!
Oh, and by the way, the town also caters to yoga fans, with shady pergola locations located around its medieval walls.
Sasso Pisano is the kind of place where if you are going to stay here you will need to make your own entertainment: it is very quite and much more so than it would have been just a few years ago since the numbers of towns people employed by the local geothermal energy company and and largest employer for miles around reduced from over a hundred to just a few people who now do the same work from computers...with computerisation of much of the daily monitoring etc of the energy plants
And although for the most part it won't win any beauty contests - by which I mean that many of the buildings have (like some other Tuscan villages and towns) been rendered in cement, which doesn't age well or have the beautiful character of those buildings who have been restored using traditional stone - it is evident that a lot of money is currently being spent on restoring the historic heart of the village, which would also have been the "castello" (castle). And that isn't being rendered in cement. It is here, opposite the church Chiesa San Bartolomew, that a new museum is due to open in the summer.
TIP Once you have explored inside the walls, take the single-track road that runs the length of the village outside - just take one of the low medieval passageways like this for a view of the back of real rural and old Italian apartment blocks - "palazzi" - with their bathrooms and toilets hanging on the outer walls, tiny well-kept gardens, an odd garage for an Ape... plus a snoozing cat or two. You can always return quickly to the centre of the town via another passageway.
Both ends of the medieval passageway that is still very much in use, called the "Vicola della Spiffero".
You won't have a problem finding a place to park in Sasso Pisano, but instead of inside the old centre, the best place is just a few feet away outside of the old castle walls in a parking zone that is shaded by a double avenue of trees opposite this grassy public garden in the photo below which also has a small children's play area.
A great bonus about parking here is that there is a public spring water supply called "Casa dell'aqua" - you can't miss it - pic below - where you can refill your holiday supply of refrigerated "frizzante" (fizzy) fresh water for just five cents a litre. The supply is open 24 hours a day.
Walking into town from the car park you will see signs for public toilets and bathrooms, as well as a "camper sostenuto" (camper site for water etc) in the direction of the old "Lavatorio" - along the single track road below the town walls. Which is where you will also find one of the yoga spots (see below).
Don't plan on eating out in Sasso Pisano unless you bring your own picnic as the only restaurant in town is now closed.
The highest part of the medieval centre is a still lived in castle, which requires you to walk the gauntlet of an entrance after the main gate that turns at 90 degrees once you are inside: it is a well preserved example of a medieval Barbican trap - the "Arco a trabocchetto".
You will find the shady Bikram and Hatha yoga spot - with instruction board - outside of the old medieval walls, alongside the bedrock upon which the castle and village was built. Follow the signs for the old "Lavatoio" from the car park.
There are two other locations in the ancient chestnut woods that surround the town.
The are many thermal springs close to the town, the waters of the hottest of which surface at 65 °C and the coolest at around 30 °C.
You can take a bath in the restored and covered medieval thermal washhouse, the "Il Lavatoio", which is located next to the sports ground, where you will also find the archaeological site of the Etruscan and Roman spa, "Il Bagnone".
The spring waters that I saw running down the hillside in the Le Biancane just outside of town were bubbling and at boiling point at their exit points: now you don't get much hotter than that!
If you are visiting Sasso Pisano, you must take a walk on the wild and hot rocks of the Le Biancane, even if you don't take the whole trek. For the geothermal landscape - all of which is a protected park area - is quite something to experience for the senses as well as a great place for a picnic.
Access is free and just a short distance from the town.
The rare mineral is the oily to touch boric acid mineral Sassolite, which takes its name from Sasso Pisano where it was discovered in 1800 and where, to date, the best specimens in Italy are to be found. You can also find the less rare Larderellite.
If your budding mineral collectors are lucky enough to find some, don't get the specimens wet or they won't make it home as they dissolve in water!
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