Driving in Tuscany is as magical as everyone says it is, and our 2½ hour drive flew by. It was close to the end of March and springtime was coming into full bloom. We found ourselves surrounded with rolling hills and valleys amongst the vibrant colors of life, our eyes drinking up the beauty. Every shade of green you can possibly imagine is represented bursting with new growth as you drive by ancient villages, farmlands, wineries and olive groves.
Before long we found ourselves nearing San Fillipo Terme, and to our delight realized that the town of Castiglione d’Orcia was an incredibly small village. The town consists of 2 very narrow one-way streets, one hotel and about 4 restaurants. That’s it. Amazing!
We easily found street parking, hopped out of the car, took a deep breath and immediately recognized the familiar sulfur egg-farty sour smell of a natural hot spring. We followed our noses to a foot path that lead us down to a set of about 4 pools with ranging temperatures. These clear beautiful pools reflected the surrounding maple, birch and pine trees… however a majority of the space was occupied, so we decided to continue on. The next pool we found had milky opaque and blue water, and the most remarkable white limestone formation behind it. Honestly, the wall reminded me of Disneyland’s Matterhorn ride.
I tested the water and immediately fell in love. As soon as I stepped in I could feel all the tension and recent frustrations melt slowly away. The water and I became one and more than an hour quickly passed. We realized that there were more pools to see so we parted with our first milky healing pool and followed a gorgeous forest path alongside the warm flowing stream. The next set of pools happened to be occupied, so we continued further down the path wondering how far the hot water flowed.
We found ourselves staring at an immense limestone formation that has likely been around for at least 10,000 years, slowly changing shape as the mineral rich water flows. It felt like some sort of fairytale, or the real FernGully. The boulder face has small pools cascading down to the stream below with water temperatures ranging from scalding hot to luke-warm. Some of the pools are large enough for an entire body to be submerged, while others are just big enough to fit one butt at a time. At the top there is a small waterfall with boiling hot water, which is likely the main heat source for the series of cascading pools.
Locals call the limestone boulder Balena Bianca (white whale) due to its immense shape and likeness to the Famous Moby Dick of Melville. If you continue further down the path you will find yet another limestone formation, but this one has a much steeper rock face and only a few smaller deeper pools. Our friend Lindsey and I found ourselves relaxing in what we called “the love tub” since it perfectly fit the two of us.
Eventually Lindsey and Javier had enough of all the hot water and I found myself alone in the love tub. As I stared up at the trees shading the sun I slowly closed my eyes. I focused on the moment and breathed in the sounds of the forest and the continual flow of the water. I could have permanently moved into that particular tub. I vowed to myself to always return to these magical hot springs. Thankfully I would soon have the opportunity to do so with my mom to celebrate mother’s day.