Located in Southern Tuscany, Saturnia Hot Springs (Terme di Saturnia, in Italian), known in Italy as Cascate del Mulino, are beautiful, natural hot springs in an idyllic setting of rolling hills and countryside. As they are actually really close to Viterbo, we (my dad, my sister and I) decided to set on a nice road trip while we were in Tuscia to visit family. We spent the day driving through the gorgeous countryside of Tuscia and Maremma; exploring the small town of Pitigliano, and relaxing at the beautiful springs.
If you have seen photos of Saturnia Hot Springs on social media and would like to visit, but have no idea how to plan your day, continue reading. I am about to share everything you need to know to plan your day and make the most of it.
Head over to my post A Curated Guide To Tuscia, Italy.
What You Need To Know About Saturnia Hot Springs
Where are Saturnia Hot Springs?
The Saturnia Hot Springs, or Terme di Saturnia in Italian, are located in the southern part of the region of Tuscany, in an area called Maremma, a stone’s throw from the village of Saturnia in the municipality of Manciano. As a result of its geothermal waters, Saturnia has long been renowned as a popular spa town. It’s located about two hours by car from Rome, a distance of around 163 kilometers (101 miles), and close to Viterbo (roughly 80 km, or 49.7 miles) and Grosseto (56 km, or 34.8 miles).
What’s so special about them?
The actual springs themselves, which feed the baths, can be found in a fairly large area, stretching from Mount Amiata to the hills of Fiora and Albegna. Its history goes back a long way; people have been enjoying the restorative waters here since the Etruscan and Roman eras.
However, the origin of Saturnia Hot Springs is soaked in mythology.
Its name is taken from the Roman deity Saturn, the god of time among other important aspects of ancient life. The legend goes that Saturn, feeling that humanity had become too aggressive and warlike, threw a lightning bolt down to Earth in anger. This lightning bolt created a crater, from which hot, sulfurous water arose – and the hot spring was born.
This pool of rejuvenating water is said to have cleansed the souls of the war-faring men, and guided them instead to a life of peace and prosperity. This so-called Golden Age was ruled by the god Saturn himself. Whether the legend is true or not, the crater can still be found today within the spa resort itself, where it is called Piscina Sorgente, or Pool of Origin.
The location of the hot springs was a convenient one in the ancient world, as it was located along the Via Clodia – an age-old road which connected Rome with Etruscan lands. Roman and Etruscan travelers alike would stop at the hot springs and, much like in the urban baths of the city, discuss politics and philosophy. They were a veritable social hub as well as a place of healing.
The site’s significance throughout history has been noted in a string of historic events. For example, in the Middle Ages it was a source of contention between two factions of the noble Aldobrandeschi family, the Santa Fiora and Sovana branches. Later in 1188, the baths were mentioned in a Papal bill issued by Pope Clement III; they were described as being a place with shelter for travelers and bathers, with a mill downstream, and baths that were fed with water from a spring.
From 1216 until the early 14th century, the baths continued to be a source of disputes for powerful factions who wanted to control the area, including the city of Siena and the Orsini family. But during this turbulent era, the baths fell into a state of neglect. There was a lack of regulation due uncertain ownership and regional conflict. But thankfully this state of affairs wasn’t to last: In 1572 a large restoration project took place.
Later, the hot spring’s health benefits were attested to in a book by Emanuele Repetti — the Historical, Physical and Geographical Dictionary of Tuscany, published in the late 19th century. In the early 20th century, the Ciacci family took over the ownership of the property and worked to restore some of the buildings. In 1919, the family constructed the spa’s first hotel, which defined the appearance of the modern day resort.
In 1920, the purported health benefits of the Terme di Saturnia were finally put to the test when a team from the University of Pisa carried out the first modern chemical analysis of the water. This was then followed up by another test by the University of Rome’s Institute of Chemistry in 1947.
Nowadays, the chemical makeup of the hot springs have been much studied. The spring water makes its way from deep below Mount Amiata on a journey that takes 40 years. During this journey, the water becomes rich in minerals; it absorbs carbon dioxide, which is later released as the water passes by pockets of travertine and marls at a depth of around 200 meters (656 feet).
Because of the action of carbon dioxide on these rocks, sulfur, calcium, sulfates and magnesium are released and absorbed by the water, along with a variety of vitamins and other gasses including hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide. The water then rises to the surface at a temperature of 37.5°C (99.5°F), and flows at a volume of almost 800 liters per second. The sheer power of the hot spring’s flow means that the water in the pool is changed, naturally, every four hours (around six times a day).
Views at the Saturnia Hot Springs
One of the best views of Saturnia Hot Springs is when you first arrive. The road on the way in is situated above the hot springs, and offers a good introductory glimpse before you’ve even reached them.
As well as the pools of spring water themselves, there are also waterfalls of hot mineral water to marvel at here. There are a few different cascades situated at Saturnia Hot Springs, but the most famous is the Cascate del Mulino (“Mill Falls”), which is situated just above the pools. It’s what most visitors have in mind when looking at photos of the Terme di Saturnia, and think about going there.
What are the hot springs at the Cascate del Mulino like?
The whole area of the Saturnia Hot Springs is filled with various little geothermal waterways, one of which is the Gorello. This little river is a wild stream with reeds that winds its way through the countryside before feeding into the Cascate del Mulino. Because of this, some people actually call the waterfall the Gorello Waterfall.
Note that swimming in the stream is not possible, but you can definitely enjoy the waters at the Cascate del Mulino. The thermal waters here have several specific therapeutic properties thanks to its chemical makeup, created by its epic journey from deep underground.
Firstly, it is said that the waters can help to reduce blood pressure; alongside this benefit, bathing at these hot springs can relax your muscles, and can also have an anti-inflammatory effect, relieving joint pain. While these actual benefits are not backed by scientific proof, it is still a relaxing experience. And if it helps, when we visited we felt a million times better after having the strong warm water drop directly onto our shoulders!
Do they smell?
Well, yes! The Terme di Saturnia smell rather strong. Being mineral water that is infused with sulfur, there is a definite “aroma” of cooked eggs that hovers in the air around the pools. The power of this smell varies, but can be overwhelming for some at first. It wasn’t too bad when we visited in September.
Just like chlorine sticks to your skin after spending time in a swimming pool, there will probably be a slight sulfurous smell that clings to your body after bathing at the hot springs. My tip would be to wash off afterwards if you don’t want to smell of eggs! (More about showering at the Cascate del Mulino in a bit).
Practical Info For Visiting The Cascate Del Mulino / Saturnia Hot Springs
Cascate del Mulino opening hours
The Cascate del Mulino is likely what you’ll want to visit when you go to Saturnia Hot Springs, Italy. The good news is that they are open all day, every day, all year round. That means you can visit and bathe in these natural mineral pools whenever you feel like it, pretty much!
Terme di Saturnia tickets
Or lack thereof! In fact the Cascate del Mulino are absolutely free to enter. You’ll however have to pay to park your car, and to use the showers and hair dryers.
Best time to visit the Terme di Saturnia
You might think that heading to the spa in the summer is the best time of year, what with the blue skies and sun shining above. However, in the summer months, the temperatures are actually quite hot to enjoy the warm waters; the sun constantly beats down on the waters and there’s pretty much shade from the UV rays. Summer is also peak season in Italy, which means that the Cascate del Mulino are going to be crowded. They certainly were when we visited, and it was a week day.
So while it may seem like a fun idea to splash around in the pools in the sunshine, it’s actually not the best time of year to visit. Instead, the spring and the autumn would be the most pleasant time of year to visit, as you can still enjoy more moderate outdoor temperatures while reaping the benefits of the warm waters.
The Saturnia Hot Springs are arguably at their most magical during the winter, when steam rises out from the pools in huge plumes. Here you can take a truly relaxing break from the cold outdoor weather in the hot springs. Be warned: once you get out, the air temperature can feel particularly cold, so make sure to bring some nice warm towels to wrap yourself up in afterwards.
As for the best time of day to visit Saturnia Hot Springs, I would recommend as early in the morning as possible. This will mean fewer people. That said, it’s also a pleasant way to end the day, so visiting in the late afternoon or evening can be a relaxing experience. We were coming from Viterbo and arrived around 11:00 am and as you can imagine, the Cascate del Mulino were packed already.
How long should you stay?
I would recommend staying for a couple of hours, enjoying nature and the benefits of the hot water, and then continue exploring the nearby area (I will point out to some nearby attractions below). It’s probably not a good idea to stay in the pools themselves for longer than 20 or 30 minutes at a time, especially if you’re visiting on a warm day. My sister and I kept getting in and out as we’d move from a natural pool to another, and it worked perfectly fine for us.
Bring a picnic or go for lunch at the cafe, or depending on the time of day you can do what we did and just have lunch in the lovely Pitigliano.
Toilets and changing rooms at Terme di Saturnia
When I started looking for information about Saturnia Hot Springs, the impression I had was that there would be no toilets, changing rooms or showers near the Cascate del Mulino. However, there is a small seasonal cafe situated right by the main gate that leads to the hot springs, and there are hot showers, changing rooms and toilets right above.
The toilets and changing rooms (they are small cabins with a door) are separate for men and women and free to use, but there is a €1 fee to use the showers. You will have to change your €1 coin for a token for the shower (there’s a vending machine right outside for that). There even are hair driers that you can use for a fee.
What to wear and bring when visiting this Tuscany hot springs
There is nowhere to safely store your personal belongings at the hot springs, so it’s a good idea to keep the items you bring with you to a minimum. Most people choose to leave their clothes and shoes at the edge of the pool they are bathing in, but make sure to keep an eye on them. Leave any valuables like phones, jewelry, and wallets somewhere safe, or take turns to go in the pools.
Some of the essential things to bring with you on your trip to Saturnia Hot Springs include:
- Bathing suit
- Sun block and sun protection – there is almost no shade, so some sort of hat and sunglasses is a good idea to bring.
- Snacks — in case you want to stay longer, and don’t want to buy things at the cafe, snacks, or even a full picnic is recommended.
- Small change — you’ll need it to pay for the car park, for the cafe and for the showers.
Make sure to also bring a small bag to pick up your trash. I have seen quite a few abandoned plastic bottles which is quite sad, considering how beautiful the place is. There are disposal bins close to the café above the Cascate del Mulino. If you can’t find them, simply bring your trash back home with you and dispose of it properly.
Take off your jewelry!
This is something hardly anyone mentions. Because of the strong mineral properties of the Saturnia Hot Springs, the water here has been known to cause damage to jewelry. Don’t forget to take off any of your valuable watches, rings, necklaces or earrings before entering the water.
How to get to the Saturnia Hot Springs
Before you start your trip to Saturnia Hot Springs, it’s good to note that the area is better known in Italy as the Cascate del Mulino, the name of the waterfall at the top of the pools. If you put that into your maps app or sat-nav, it will be easier to find. Due to this being a hot spring-heavy area, with multiple spa resorts and natural pools to swim in, it could be tricky to find if you just typed in “Terme di Saturnia”.
By car from Viterbo
Together with Grosseto, Viterbo is the closest mid-sized city you can use as a base to visit the Cascate del Mulino. That’s where we went from, and it was super easy.
From Viterbo, it takes about 1.5 hour at a leisurely pace to get to the Cascate del Mulino, over a nice scenic road that also goes by Lake Bolsena. You’ll have to take roads SP7, SP8, then Strada Regionale (SR) 312 Castrense and SR74 towards Pitigliano, which is found on the way to the Tuscany hot springs.
Don’t forget to also read my post The Best Things To Do In Viterbo.
By car from Rome
The route from Rome to the hot springs takes around 2 hours, and leads north along the coast on the E80 highway, which is a toll road. You’ll pass by Civitavecchia, before turning inland at Montalto di Castro. There are plenty of picturesque places to stop off along the way if you want to break up the journey.
By car from Florence
From Florence it can take up to three hours to drive to Saturnia Hot Springs, covering around 200 kilometers (124 miles). The route runs along the A1 motorway, which is a toll road, or the more winding SS223 highway. If you decide to go via the SS223 highway, you may make a stop in Siena on the way back (though beware Siena deserves way longer!).
Check out my post The Best Day Trips From Florence.
How to get to the Terme di Saturnia by bus
Saturnia Hot Springs is not well connected to the nearby towns and cities by public transport — but that doesn’t mean it’s totally impossible to get there. It’ll just take you a long time – so much so that you can’t do it as a day trip. Getting there means taking a combination of train and bus.
The nearest train station to the baths is Albinia, which is about half way between Rome and Pisa. From Albinia, take the 41P bus directly to Manciano, which takes around 47 minutes. From Manciano, you can take a connecting bus (the 17P) to Saturnia; this leaves every 30 minutes and takes 25 minutes.
Then there’s the 10 minutes walk to the hot springs themselves. In total, this journey will take 3 hours and 30 minutes as a minimum. Because of the long journey, it’s probably best to spend a night in the town enjoying the hot springs if you want to get there via public transport!
Can you visit the Terme di Saturnia on a day trip?
You can definitely visit the Cascate del Mulino on a day trip from Viterbo as they are easy to reach by car. In fact, you can include Pitigliano in your itinerary and make it a full day away. If you are coming from either Florence or Rome, I don’t actually recommend it just as a day trip, but you could break the journey there in case you are driving either south or north.
The only guided day trips to Saturnia Hot Springs I know of depart from Civitachecchia Port. A good example is this Saturnia Thermal & Wellness tour from Civitavecchia Port which also includes a stop in Pitigliano and Montemerano too.
Nearby places to visit
Near the Cascate del Mulino, the town of Saturnia is a small but interesting place to stop by during your trip to its namesake pools. Situated on a hill overlooking the hot springs, the town has ancient roots. In 60 BC, Greek historian Dionysus of Halicarnassus described how Saturnia was first occupied by the Pelasgi — an indigenous civilization of Greece predating the “classical” era; it was then occupied by a Roman colony from 183 BC.
Today you can still see the remains of Saturnia’s ancient city walls; there are also Roman ruins situated outside the walls. The town’s gate, the Porta Romana, is still intact today — a structure that’s been standing since the 2nd century BC.
The town’s fate changed in the 14th century when it was used as a hideout for outlaws, and was more or less completely destroyed by the Sienese. It was left forgotten and in ruins until the hot springs once again became a fashionable place to bathe in the 16th century, but wasn’t properly uncovered until the 19th century.
There are a handful of historic sights to stop by in Saturnia. These include the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena, dating back to 1188, and the Bagno Santo (“Holy Bath”), situated just outside the town center. There’s also the town’s archaeological museum to stop by.
Terme di Saturnia Thermal Park
Although the “official” Saturnia Hot Springs are a natural place that’s open to the public, nearby there’s also the Thermal Park of Saturnia. This more polished establishment is a complex of different baths and pools that have harnessed the mineral rich waters of the hot springs.
This resort is not just for guests, however. Visitors can pay various day rates to enjoy the relaxing waters of their various thermal pools. Treatments and massages can also be enjoyed, which utilize mineral elements of the water.
In all, there are five outdoor thermal pools, whirlpool hot tubs, and hot and cold plunge pools, Finnish saunas and various spots for wellness and relaxation. There are day and half day passes available, and you can rent umbrellas and sun loungers too. For more information check out their website.
The lovely Pitigliano is roughly a 20 minutes drive from the Terme di Saturnia – if you are coming from Viterbo, you’ll actually pass by before getting there and on your way back. This small historic town is carved into tufa rock – much like many towns of the Tuscia region of northern Lazio.
While traces of Etruscan civilizations have been found in the area, the first testimony of Pitigliano dates back to the 12th century. What makes it special is also its Jewish connection: it’s also known as Little Jerusalem for the presence of an ancient Mikveh (ritual bath) and there used to be a kosher bakery and even butcher.
Make sure to also read my posts A Short Guide To Pitigliano, Italy.
Where to stay near Saturnia Hot Springs
Should you want to spend a few relaxing days in the area, here are some good places to stay.
Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort
This sizable resort is located two kilometers from the village of Saturnia, close to the free hot springs themselves. The resort boasts a series of mineral pools for guests to enjoy, as well as a wellness center, sauna, and Turkish bath.
The spa also boasts its own 18-hole golf course, and an elegant restaurant and cocktail bar. Guest rooms at Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort are sophisticated, with polished parquet floors, marble bathrooms, and designer furnishings. The whole hotel is set inside a historic mansion, and is the perfect place to spend time relaxing during your visit.
Relais Villa Acquaviva
Rustic yet luxurious, this Tuscan style property is a boutique accommodation option that offers both thermal pools and wine-tasting experiences. The property is set among 15 hectares of rolling hills planted with vineyards, which produce some delicious local wine; guests, of course, have the chance to sample it at the hotel’s wine cellar.
Rooms here take inspiration from traditional Tuscan design style; some even come with their very own hot tubs and private terraces with panoramic views of the vineyards. Though it doesn’t have its own thermal pools, it’s located just a 10-minute drive from Saturnia Hot Springs. It’s also a short drive to Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort; staying here means you get discounts on admission there, too.
Casale Terre Rosse
Situated in just a five-minute drive from the Saturnia Hot Springs, rooms at this farm house are set inside a gorgeous country-style house that’s run by locals. There are very few rooms to choose from, all traditionally decorated and which feel cozy and comfortable.
A homemade breakfast to start your day is provided, and pets are allowed too. It’s a good option for those who are visiting the area on a budget or who want somewhere affordable to stay the night.
2 thoughts on “How To Visit Saturnia Hot Springs: 18 Best Things To Know”
Hi Claudia – I want to visit the Saturnia hot spring as a day trip from Rome (in a car rental). And I see in your article that you don’t recommend it. If I were to do it on a day trip, where else should we see/visit in that day? Or would you absolutely still suggest not to do it in a day trip from Rome?
Pitigliano is on the way – I have a post about that. But yeah, it’s quite far to do it as a day trip: 2.5 hours drive and that’s if you really know where you are going, and without taking into account possible traffic and delays. Honestly either go somewhere else or base yourself in Viterbo for a few days to explore the area, including Saturnia. I have posts on day trips from Rome, and many posts on Viterbo and the Tuscia region.