What’s hot, wet and holistic, even in the middle of Italian winter? Italian spas, which trade on the same fantastically relaxing thermal waters that stressed-out Roman soldiers loved for healing and all sorts of health benefits. Ardent spa seeks would never avoid taking the waters in winter, regardless of the temperature.
Tuscany’s thermal springs were known and enjoyed by the ancient Romans, who needed to temper all that conquering with a little R&R, and, in some cases, by the Etruscans before them. Many hill towns and villages have harnessed the mineral-rich waters for use as municipal terme (pronounced terMAY), or spas, but some, such as, Adler Thermae (adler-thermae.com), are now privately owned resorts. Adler is near the tiny village of Bagno Vignoni. The thermal water here was also enjoyed by St. Catherine of Siena and Lorenzo il Magnifico. It bubbles up from the earth at 125 degrees and with its high calcium, magnesium, sulphate, and bicarbonate content, it holds therapeutic benefits for bones, joints, and skin.
Still, detox is the order of the day at the Adler spa, starting with the three large outdoor pools into which that hot Bagno Vignoni water is pumped. The thing to do is simply float about in them, enjoying the open space and fragrant country air. Inside Adler Thermae is a cluster of saunas, including the Etruscan sauna with salt steam, and Artemisia, an herbal steam room where the water is centrally heated with herbs and stones and released by steam jets. Ah!
Terme di Saturnia Resort in the rolling hills of the Maremma region of southern Tuscany was featured as one of the “100 Best Spas of the World” in the book by the same name, thanks to its bubbling outdoor pools which are fed by warm volcanic springs. The water in the outdoor mineral pool is constantly heated at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit and is also blended in mineral-rich mud used in beauty treatments. A sensible antidote for dry skin, so common in colder weather, these detoxifying waters are Mamma Nature’s best medicine.
“The waters are seductive and even more sensational in winter,” says Sheila Cluff, owner the Oaks at Ojai, the famous American fitness resort in Ojai, Calif. She should know, as her daughter lived next to the fabulous Fonteverde Natural Health Resort in the Tuscan village of San Casciano dei Bagni, where views of the Val d’ Orcia Valley are stunning all year long. In winter, marvelous mists rise from the outdoor thermal pools. The steamy thermal waters swirl in the chill as spa seekers loll in the waters, impervious to plunging temperatures.
While it is not a spa per se, consider too the Aeolian Islands near Sicily, which are volcanic in origin. Vulcano has therapeutic sulfur-rich mud in places but it’s in Panarea where you can enjoy the benefits of mineral rich H20 in a suitably sybaritic setting: the Hotel Raya. Here, villas are tucked into the dramatic hillside. Volcanic waters are diverted to an outdoor pool which some would find quaint compared to the sophisticated thermal pools in famous spa towns like Abano or Montecatini. But hotel proprietress Myrian Beltrami says these hypotonic waters are among the finest in the world. “The waters are powerful, they are prehistoric and words can’t describe their therapeutic power,” she confided to spa author and international wellness guru Pam Price during her Raya stay. “After a week of religiously soaking in the naturally warmed water, I felt like a spa goddess,” Price says.
Whether you decide to book that long overdue, last-minute winter spa escape or just need to start planning for your spa pampering now, Italy has the spa answer for you.
Which spas will you choose to beat the Italian winter blues?