Italy: Hot springs near Viterbo- UPDATED with two new springs





We've updated this article with two new discoveries. Scroll down...



What?
Natural hot springs- some for free, some paid, where you can soak in hot mineral water and wallow in medicinal mud. 

Why visit?
Because this is your chance to use an ancient Roman jacuzzi! 

Those Romans knew a thing or two about bathing. They were famous for building enormous bath houses but also took advantage of natural hot springs to soak their weary feet after some prodigious empire-building. You can follow in their footsteps and jump into these still functioning hot springs after some prodigious sight-seeing. 


Where?
Near Viterbo in Northern Lazio. Map



ALTHOUGH MOST PEOPLE know that the ancient Romans had a soft spot for hot baths, few people know that some of the same places the Romans used can still be used by you and me today. 

These hot springs are a natural phenomenon, thanks to the volcanic activity that has shaped this part of Italy (the nearby lakes of Bolsena and Bracciano are both volcanic in origin, and Monte Amiata is a massive volcano not far away.) An underground fault line lets water bubble up at a temperature of 58° C, a little too hot for a comfortable soak but once you've filled up a basin and the water has cooled off a little it becomes an outdoor jacuzzi that is comforting even on a chilly winter day.  

Many people believe the water and mud, both rich in minerals (and producing some noxious smells), are beneficial to their health and you will see people fill up bottles to take home and cover themselves in mud for better absorption of the goodies. 
Happy as a pig in mud- bathers cover themselves in white sulphuric mud at the Carletti springs. 
Let me take your of a brief tour of four six hot springs, all within striking distance from Viterbo. Don't forget to bring your Speedos! 

Terme dei Papi

This is the most glamorous one, and it charges a hefty entrance fee. The name derives from its use by the Popes, who for a while held court in nearby Viterbo, although as far as I know Pope Francis has yet to visit (and being the poor man’s Pope he is, you'd probably find him at one of the free springs below.)
Terme dei Papi offers a well-maintained, large pool, free colourful foam noodles to float on (I’m sure the ancient Romans would have liked those too) and mud massages- which are charged separately. 

As you enter you can see some of the Roman ruins of the site- they are near the parking lot. 

Bullicame

These springs are the preferred place to soak for literature buffs: Dante (who knew a thing or two about hot places) mentioned them in his Inferno. There are no devils to be seen, just sun-worshipping pensioners and families. 
'Ciao Bella! Si, I am at Bullicame today. You will have to cook your own pasta!'
The city of Viterbo recently cleaned up the whole area, put a fence around it, as well as a rock garden. It’s well-maintained, yet it’s completely free of charge and freely accessible. That’s your tax euro at work. The large pool means the water temperature varies depending on the distance from the source- choose the temperature that suits your mood. 
Channels of piping hot water. 

Piscine Carletti

Don't be surprised if you see half naked people while driving your car on the nearby SP2 provincial road. These springs are hard to miss as they are right next to a junction. They're open, they're free, and they're a little more rough and ready as it's literally a piece of unguarded countryside. You'll find frugal Italian tourists parked next door in their camper van for a weekend for spa treatments senza pagare.
Soaking with the beautiful people at Carletti.
Roman masonry still stands guard near the bathers. 

Terme di Masse San Sisto

These springs are now managed by a not-for profit organization and require membership, which can be acquired on the spot. If you're in the area for a while, this may be worth it, as they are well-maintained, with some facilities, and good oversight. 

Many of the members look like extras from a Fellini film- glamour, Italian style means tiny bathing suits and massive sun glasses, no matter your age or body size. 
A warm bath on a chilly November day- that's La Dolce Vita!

A Roman aqueduct still stands at San Sisto.

NEW: Il Bagnaccio

Like many of these springs, Il Bagnaccio been around since, like, forever. But a few years ago, it received a new lease of life when an association took over its management. And with five different pools, it offers something for everybody. There's even a pool dedicated to families so if you want to soak without risking being splashed by excited ragazzi, you can pick one of the child-free pools.
Feeling Blue? Let yourself be cheered up at Il Bagnaccio


New: Terme di Vulci

It's the oldest trick in the book: name your business after a well-known attraction, even if you're nowhere near it (like the infamously named Crown Plaza St Peter Hotel in Rome which is a 50 minute walk from the Basilica). 

Terme di Vulci is at least 8 Km from the Vulci ruins (another outstanding Minor Sight), but never mind, we forgive them the slight of hand, as this is an outstanding new set of springs. 

The bar is raised significantly, as Terme di Vulci aims at a new standard that includes lockers with kets, bathrobes, and towels. It's quite an amazing luxury experience in the middle of the Lazio countryside. 

The water is different too: it's rich in iron and looks, well, rusty. But that doesn't matter- come here to pamper yourself like a Roman patrician, and enjoy the gorgeous setting. 
Another gorgeous day comes to an end at Terme di Vulci.


Getting there:
As you can see on the map, three of the springs are quite close together. Public buses run from central Viterbo to the Terme dei Papi and stop walking distance from Carletti and Bullicame. 
San Sisto is just off the Via Cassia towards Vetralla and is best reached by car. 


Useful links:
Terme di Viterbo non-official website.
Official website of the Terme dei Papi.
Il Bagnaccio
Terme di Vulci


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