Time is always precious when you travel, and one thing people often forget to do during their trip is unwind. I’m talking about true relaxation. In our never-ending quest to “see as much as possible in as little time as possible,” we often forget to savor and enjoy the places we are visiting. For instance, have you ever considered visiting one of the hot springs near Rome after ticking off your visit to the Colosseum and the Vatican?
At The Italy Edit, we are strong proponents of slow travel. This involves fully embracing and connecting to the places you visit, rather than chaining yourself to a busy itinerary. We also believe in a holistic approach to wellness, incorporating healthy habits and balance while you’re on vacation. You may associate Italy with endless plates of pasta and free-flowing wine, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll realize Italy is the ultimate wellness destination.
Italy is home to dozens of natural hot springs located from north to south. These “terme” have been a source of physical and spiritual health since ancient times thanks to their sulfur sulphate bicarbonate alkaline earth waters. Soaking in thermal baths can help treat and prevent a range of ailments. These include chronic respiratory and osteoarticular conditions, as well as diabetes, arthritis, psoriasis, dermatitis, and erythema. I sprained my foot during a road trip to Caprarola (thank you, cobblestones) and I can testify that the healing waters of the nearby thermal springs did the trick!
Many hot springs are open year-round but I recommend visiting during the shoulder months (spring and fall). This will let you enjoy the benefits of the steamy waters without the sweltering heat. There are many terme located all over Italy, but in this guide, we’re going to focus on hot springs located in driving distance from Rome.
The 5 Best Hot Springs Near Rome
Terme di Saturnia, Tuscany
Perhaps the most famous natural hot springs in Italy, the Terme di Saturnia predate their popularity on Instagram, as these healing waters have been enjoyed since the time of the Etruscans and the Romans. According to Roman legend, the springs of Saturnia were created during a violent argument between the gods Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter threw lightning bolts at Saturn, but one missed and struck the ground, creating the Saturnia springs in the beautiful Maremma region of southern Tuscany.
Saturnia’s aquamarine waters, warmed by the volcanic activity of Monte Amiata, Italy’s second-largest volcano, are famous for their mineral-rich content. The most popular pools in Saturnia are the ones near Le Cascate del Mulino, “the falls of the windmill.” These pools, resembling steps on a mountain slope, are often featured in iconic photos of the springs. Another beautiful spot, Cascate del Gorillo, offers a serene experience amidst gushing waterfalls and lush surroundings. The therapeutic properties of Saturnia’s waters are believed to benefit the skin, respiratory tract, and blood circulation. They are even known to alleviate rheumatic and cosmetic ailments.
The only way to reach Saturnia is by car; there is no public transportation option. It’s a 2-3 hour drive from the cities of Florence and Rome, so plan ahead to make the most of your day. The baths are completely free but it’s best to show up early to avoid the crowds. Make sure you bring a change of clothes, including water shoes as the bottom of pools can be a bit rough on the feet. While there is a restroom and changing area the space is limited. There are no lockers so keep your valuables with you at all times or keep them safely locked in the car.
The nice thing about Saturnia, however, is that there is a restaurant on the property. Be sure to bring cash just in case: they also sell sunscreen, towels, and water shoes if you forget something. And if you want to stay nearby, consider booking a room at the luxurious Terme di Saturnia Golf Resort, a member of The Leading Hotels Of The World.
Saturnia may have been built by the gods, but it’s us mere mortals who are reaping the benefits. Saturnia is a hot spring that truly lives up to its legacy.
Bagni San Filippo, Tuscany
Our next stop is a well-hidden gem. While usually out-shined by its Instagram-famous neighbor, the Bagni San Filippo also deserves a chance to shine. The baths are located in the Tuscan countryside, in the Val d’Orcia, nestled in the middle of a beautiful forest. These baths, like other sites, have been used since the time of the ancients. Filled with massive calcium formations and dramatic waterfalls within gleaming green woods, the baths are truly a spectacular setting. As of August 2023, they have started charging guests for entry to control over-tourism. However, for just 2 euros per adult (kids enter for free), you can enjoy the baths as long as you like!
The area is well-maintained and a footpath provides easy access to the spring’s several pools. I recommend you skip the first set of pools and keep walking. Eventually, you will reach the waterfall known as the balena bianca “the white whale.” This incredible limestone formation was named due to its strong resemblance to a whale’s mouth. It also has some of the nicest pools in the area. At the bottom of these pools, you’ll find deposits of mineral-rich thermal mud that is excellent for your skin. Don’t be afraid to cover your face and body with a free mud treatment – nature knows best! Keep in mind the preservation of the springs is of the utmost importance so stay inside the designated zones (many parts are fenced off). Do not climb or step on the formations as they are extremely fragile and slippery.
The best way to reach Bagni San Filippo is by car, as the public transport in the area is a bit unreliable (more so than usual). The baths are 2 hours from the major cities in the area, so plan ahead when visiting so you can enjoy the baths con calma. Once you arrive at the parking lot, pay in the machines and be sure to place your ticket on the dash – and don’t leave your valuables in the car. If you bring snacks, you can eat next to the pools or the convenient picnic tables along the trail.
Also, be sure to use the bathrooms in the nearby village before walking down the trail as there are no facilities at the baths. It takes about 10-15 minutes to walk down to the pools. Once you step inside the baths, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another world. Come prepared, relax, and enjoy the celestial waters under the canopy of trees.
Terme dei Papi, Lazio
The historic Terme dei Papi or the “Thermal Baths of the Popes,” has been a go-to spot for the Popes since the 12th century. Located in Viterbo, a medieval town 2-hour’s drive from Rome, these baths are the perfect place to visit for culture and wellness. Viterbo was the seat of the papacy for 24 years and has several interesting buildings to see. This includes the site of a historic Papal conclave that happened in 1271! In the 15th century, Pope Boniface IX visited the baths to treat his “severe bone aches” with the thermal waters and mineral-rich mud. Even Michelangelo Buonarroti admired the baths and created two sketches of them on one of his trips to Rome (between 1496 and 1536).
While the large, 2000 square meter rectangular pool at the Terme dei Papi is man-made, the waters are supplied by the natural Bullicame Springs. The steamy 58°C waters flow from gorgeous stone spouts into the pool. The thermal baths are connected to a hotel but they’re open to the general public as well. However, if you like the idea of sitting in a natural steamy grotto, I recommend booking a night at the hotel. After all, it’s the only one of its kind in Italy.
The terme is located almost 2 hours outside Rome, and the best way to arrive is by car. The nice thing about this particular thermal site is the variety of price points and options. The fee for 3 hours is 12 euros per person and only 18 euros for a full day admission. This includes access to a locker, towels, the changing area, showers, and other amenities. Be sure to bring an extra set of clothes, and an extra bag to keep your wet swimsuit in. Unlike other thermal springs, the baths are open year-round except on Tuesdays, when it is closed for maintenance. The best part? When you’re finished with your relaxation for the day, head over to the restaurant for a delicious meal and indulge in local flavors.
Terme Bullicame, Lazio
Located 2.5 km from Viterbo, the Bullicame Springs (Italian for “bubbling”) are a great way to leave the tourist crowds behind and immerse yourself in local color. These baths consist of a large natural limestone crater filled with sulphuric waters that flow at a toasty 58°C into two pools. Bullicame is unique because it allows you to take advantage of frigidarium-caldarium (hot and cold) effects. One of the pools has high temperatures while the other has cooler temperatures. These ancient springs are the oldest in the area and have been utilized since the time of the Etruscans. They were famously referenced by the poet Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy and served as inspiration for his description of hell in The Inferno.
The waters of the Bullicame Springs feed several other nearby thermal baths, including the Terme di Papi. The baths are well-maintained and are free to access year-round. However, there are no services or facilities so be sure to secure your valuables before taking a dip and plan in advance. A rural spot in the countryside, this spring is best for adventurous travelers. Be sure to bring plenty of drinking water and snacks, flip-flops, and two towels – one to sit on and one for drying yourself.
Piscine Carletti, Lazio
Just a stone’s throw from Bullicame Springs and Viterbo’s historic center is the popular Piscine Carletti. This complex of thermal springs has several pools surrounded by beautiful olive trees and cypresses. The individual pools contain water with different temperatures so you can also practice the ancient frigidarium-caldarium effect here. Alternating between cold and warm temperatures is very effective for circulation and skin ailments.
Like other hot springs near Rome, Piscine Carletti has been in use since ancient times. The Piscine Carletti feels less like a destination spa and more like a public park. It has open fields, meadows, as well as a free parking lot. As a result, the pools are unattended and there are no facilities or services. It’s best enjoyed when you come prepared with everything you need or a quick dip.
Remember: Always contact the thermal centers before your arrival to confirm that they are open, as sometimes they are closed for maintenance or special events. If you’re traveling with children, it’s generally not recommended to bring toddlers (ages 2-6) to the baths. And, as a rule of thumb for all wild thermal springs: always bring plenty of water, snacks, towels, and a change of clothes. Arrive in your swimsuit, bring cash only, and plan ahead to coordinate transport. Most of these springs can only be reached by car so make sure your IDP (International Driver’s Permit) is up to date. Andiamo!