Although well known throughout the world as an area particularly rich in top class wineries, the countryside around Siena also abounds in water springs, many of which are well hidden deep within the many woods that cover this region. A good way to discover the many thermal baths of the Senese campagna is to take the Via Cassia, formerly known as Via Romea, once a favourite route for the many pilgrims on the way to and from Rome, who would make use of the many springs and small rivers along the way.
Unrivalled in Italy for its concentration of thermal baths, the province of Siena has always placed considerable importance on this valuable natural resource and has taken every step to ensure that it is adequately protected. But the Etruscans and later the Romans were the first inhabitants of the area to really appreciate the properties of thermal bathing, as testified by the many constructions erected by these two civilisations, many of which still stand today.
In recent decades spa tourism has gradually increased in popularity, developing into a veritable business for this area. The thermal baths have grown into well-being centres combining modern and elegant structures with the natural beauty of the surrounding countryside. Among these there is Bagni di Petriolo, with its unique fortified structure that was known as early as Cicero, who quotes it in one of his legendary speeches.
Further south into the province, at Rapolano, right in the heart of Tuscany, there are the Antica Querciolaia springs, known for the extraordinary energising properties of the waters and for its homeopathic cures. The Terme di San Giovanni are also nearby and open during the summer months, with a large swimming pool that is open late into the night.
The small spa village of Bagno Vignoni has remained virtually unaltered through the centuries, with the thermal spring right in the main square. A host of illustrious figures are known to have come here through the ages, from Lorenzo de’ Medici to St Catherine of Siena. The hamlet of Bagni San Filippo looks directly out over the rolling Val d’Orcia hills, with the springs directly beneath Monte Amiata.
Of all the spa towns and springs in the region perhaps the best known is Chianciano Terme, however, which offers a concentration of different waters: Santa, Fucoli, Sillene, Santissima and Sant’Elena – all of which have their own particular properties and temperatures, enabling visitors to take advantage of a broad variety of cures and treatments.