Saturnia Tuscan Hot Springs
Do you love natural hot springs as much as us? If you are a “Terme” enthusiast and a lover of the Italian landscape, then Saturnia is the place for you. In this article you will learn everything you need to know in order to plan a great visit. This includes the best times to visit, easy directions, places to eat and local points of interest.
Location and Directions
Saturnia is a small Tuscan town located in the Grosseto province of Tuscany. It is approx. 2 ½ hours south of Florence via car.
The most direct driving route takes you through Volterra, Monteriggioni, Siena and countless other medieval towns. If you have the time, I suggest visiting at least one of these villages along the way. Monteriggioni is one of the smallest and can easily be seen in less than an hour.
Saturnia can also be reached by bus and train. The train can get you as far as Grosseto, an hour away from Saturnia. This option requires taking a bus or two the remainder of the journey. This can take 5-14 hours, depending on the date and time of departure.
Like most old towns in Italy, Saturnia is strategically placed on top of a hill. Both the free hot springs and spa are located about 3.5 Kilometers (2 miles) away, at the base of the hilltop. This makes having a car a much more practical option and allows you to explore everything the area has to offer. For the best deals and tips on renting a car in Florence, click here.
History of Saturnia
Saturnia goes back to the Etruscan era. Remnants dating from as early as the 3rdcentury BCE can be found throughout the area. This includes ancient roads, an Etruscan Necropolis and an old Roman gate. History buffs will love this town but the largest draw is the famous hot springs.
The Hot Springs
The legend of Saturnia changes, depending on who is telling the story. Some say the Roman deity Saturn created the hot springs for humans to be content, after he grew tired of observing the constant wars of man. Others say he dodged a lighting bolt thrown by Jupiter and that it instead struck the earth to create the ancient terme.
Whichever legend you fancy, one thing is true, these hot springs have been enjoyed since ancient times. The mineral enriched water is invigorating and a comfortable temperate for most seasons.
You have a few choices when it comes to enjoying the water, including some free options.
Saturnia Spa and Resort
Terme di Saturnia is a beautifully maintained, large spa and resort. There are several payment options available depending on the time of day, day of the week and length of time you wish to stay.
There are a large number of pools that are mostly the same temperature. Their website states that the temp is kept at 37.5°C/99.5°F The first outdoor pool, closest to the locker rooms, always seems to be the warmest. The facility is very spacious and is comfortable even in high season. There is an extra charge for a towel and bath robe, so plan accordingly.
It is also worth mentioning that if you do bring your own towel, it will probably take a few wash cycles to get rid of the sulfurous smell.
The grounds are equipped with a plenty of fully reclining sun chairs. There are multilevel areas to get some sun, all with the beautiful landscape of Saturnia looming in the background.
The locker rooms are spacious, with clean showers and amenities like blow dryers. As soon as you step out of the locker rooms, you are in the only indoor pool area of the facility. The rest of the pools are completely outdoors. We have been there twice during rain and it was amazing.
The Spa also offers full spa services and body work. It also has a hotel and golf course. During the winter season (November-March) the terme closes at 5pm. The rest of the year, it remains open until 7pm.
Easy to read signs are posted on all the surrounding roads, making it very easy to locate.
Free Hot Springs
If you are like most people, you probably like free options. The neighboring area has some free waterfalls whose images you may have come across at some point online.
Cascate del Mulino/ Cascate del Gorello are beautiful mini waterfalls where you can enjoy the warm waters for free. Both locations are in the same area and the names are often used interchangably on maps and road signs.
The landscape is beautiful, serene and nearby the spa. There is some free parking but this can fill up depending on what time of year you visit or if it is the weekend.
I have been to the falls as early as sunrise and already found people in the pools. Save yourself the headache and arrive early to secure your free parking.
The area is quite popular, as free places always are, so it is a good idea to choose a good time of year to visit.
Best Times to Visit
We love Saturnia during the springtime. April and May are great times to visit, while the weather is still temperate and the crowds are manageable. June-August are the busiest times of year for Italian tourism. During the summer months, the crowds can become uncomfortably large. Italy also gets very hot and humid summers, not ideal conditions for hot springs.
If you visit at colder times of year, be prepared for a cold walk from the pools to your clothes. The elevation is 294m/956ft above sea-level and can get very cold in Autumn and winter. If you brave the cold weather, the cascade on the side of the mill has the warmest water and is always the first area to fill up.
Those who can only visit during Summer, don’t despair. The water temperature is mild enough to tolerate in warmer weather. Several articles and websites claim the water is 37°C/98.6°F. I have found that it fluctuates between that temp and cooler.
Best Food Options at the Pools
When enjoying thermal pools, leaving the area to search for food can be a pain. Luckily, you have a few nearby options.
If you are visiting Terme di Saturnia, they have a cafeteria with both outdoor and indoor seating. The food is surprisingly good for dishes that are prepared in large batches. I advise eating at 12:30 when everything is at its freshest. You can find dishes such as lasagna, fried chicken, roasted potatoes and salads.
They also have a bar in the same dinning area. There you can order café, alcohol and small snacks such as chips.
For visitors of the free pools at Cascate del Mulino/Gorello , there is a nearby bar located just steps away from the falls. It is appropriately named Bar Cascate del Mulino. The food is not the best but it is very convenient.
They serve crostini, panini, pasta, burgers, alcohol and coffee. The bar is also equipped with bathrooms and paid showers. They also have signs posted, stating that they sell towels and robes. We have not observed the prices or the quality of these items so buyer beware.
Best Food in Town
If you are searching for dinner in the area, I suggest Ristorante Il Capriccio. It is located in the tiny town named Poggio Murella, only 10 minutes away by car. I ate the best truffle gnocchi and peposo I’ve ever eaten anywhere in Italy, to date. It has a cozy and warm atmosphere that sums up the lifestyle of the whole area. They open for both lunch and dinner. You can contact them at 0564607623 for a reservation.
In the town of Saturnia, we enjoyed Il Cantucci di Anastasia. The atmosphere is mellow and they have tasty pizza. Saturnia is pretty small and has a few miscellaneous options for food and gelato.
One of our favorite finds was a really cool butcher shop called Macelleria Passalacqua. If you are looking to cook at your rental, this is the perfect place to purchase some local ingredients.
The Spa is equipped with very large parking lots. The hotel and club have a separate lot from the terme. Clearly visible signs direct you to each respective parking area. There are a limited amount of covered parking spots.
Cascate del Mulino, as I previously mentioned, has free parking. Note that you can find signs for both cascade del Gorello and Mulino, they are the same location. This can be a bit confusing when visiting for the first time.
The turn off for the falls leads you down a narrow road with a large sign for parking. This road does not lead anywhere else so you can’t miss it.
The ramp leading to the parking area is too narrow to fit cross traffic. There is a small traffic signal located right before the entrance and exit meant to control the flow of vehicles. Not everyone notices the signal so make sure to make use of the large mirror to see potential oncoming vehicles.
What to Wear
It goes without saying, but hot springs all smell of sulfur. Anything you wear in the pools will require a vinegar soak or a few washes to rid the odor. The smell is not as pungent as other termi I have visited but it is worth keeping in mind if you a traveling with just one bag/suitcase.
As I wrote, the free springs have paid showers and bathrooms at Bar Cascata del Mulino. Keep in mind that these are not always open. If you are not as comfortable with brief nudity as Italians are, arrive in your bathing suit. Typically, locals just change clothes in the open under the cover of a towel.
Protect Your Feet
The free pools are outdoors, so their base are covered with thousands of small stones. The stones are quite smooth but can still hurt your feet after a few hours of soaking.
Wear protective water socks/shoes to guard your feet from the countless pebbles. This is the most common item, in addition to a robe, that we have seen visitors regret not bringing.
Don’t Wear Jewelry
For those of you who are not familiar with natural hot springs, never wear your jewelry inside. When sulfur comes in contact with metals such as silver, it will tarnish and turn black. This also applies to designer sunglasses with metal fittings.
A Word of Caution
One important bit of info, that can help soften your initial shock, is the tiny red worms that can be found in the water. This can take people by surprise but these worms are completely harmless. They are actually a positive sign of the mineral rich nutrients found in the water. The water is constantly flowing and you may not even notice them but I always see at least one tourist freak out over them.
Where to stay
Saturnia has plenty of accommodation options. Many locals rent out their homes on Airbnb. In addition to Airbnb and several hotels, there are also agriturismi all over the area. Visiting an agriturismo is fun because they are typically on farms and have organized activities. If you have trouble finding a place in Saturnia, Poggio Murella is very small town in the same area that also has rentals available.
We have stayed in both Poggio Murella and Saturnia Centro Storico. Both places were pretty quiet and pleasant settings for nighttime walks. One side note about the towns in the evening is the cats. There are a lot of cats and they all come out at night. Although they are street cats, the locals seem to feed them because they all appear very healthy. We love cats but it’s worth mentioning for anyone who is allergic to them.
Keep our Natural Areas Clean
Without fail, we always see at least some tourist leave garbage in the natural hot springs. Please be respectful of the environment and do not litter. Also avoid bringing glass bottles into the pools. These beautiful springs have been free to enjoy for thousands of years, do your part to help preserve them.
We hope you put this article to use and discover the beauty of Saturnia first hand. If any of you have been to Saturnia, please share your experience in the comments.