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Roman soldiers were some of the first to discover the benefits of bathing in thermal springs but you don’t need to be a battle weary warrior to appreciate a Tuscan spa experience. Saturnia, a picturesque area located 150 km from Rome’s main airport, is considered to be one of the best spots in Italy to ‘take the waters’ and enjoy a relaxing spa holiday. While there are myriad Tuscan spa hotels to choose from, Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort is unique. Instead of a swimming pool containing thermal water, this spa hotel has its own Etruscan era natural spring filling the vast pool that has been built around it. While ‘taking the waters’ has long been a tradition in Europe, for most Australians it can be a somewhat unusual (albeit it fabulous) experience. Tuscany is the first place I have ever worn a bathrobe to breakfast.

This looks like a regular swimming pool but it's actually very special
This looks like a regular swimming pool but it’s actually very special

At Terme di Saturnia natural bubbles dimple the pool’s surface as water forces its way through the rock below and ends its 40 year journey through the Monte Amiata Valley. These thermal waters are packed with healing minerals and natural heat that relax your body immediately. It feels like the bubbles are gently ‘kissing your skin’ when they touch your body, a strange but lovely experience. Some of the Italians in the pool collect the mineral-rich algae floating on the water’s surface as they swim and use it massage their skin.

This is what the spring looks like under the water
This is what the spring looks like under the water

We didn’t go that far but our skin certainly looked and felt fabulous by the end of our stay. In addition to the extensive array of outdoor thermal pools, there is also a thermal spa area inside the hotel with a scented snail shower, deep Roman bath, ice room and relaxation lounge. This entire complex is available to hotel guests at no extra charge. Outsiders can purchase a day pass however it is worth spending at least one night at this hotel if time and your budget permits.

Roman bath at the hotel's indoor spa area
Roman bath at the hotel’s indoor spa area

Rooms are spacious and extremely elegant although none offer much in the way of views. However, there is a picturesque Tuscan hill town to admire from the relaxing surrounds of the thermal pool which more than makes up for any lack of view from the room. While there is a focus on health with spa cuisine available for those who want it, it is the hotel’s more decadent dining which is a major drawcard. Most guests wear their bathrobes to breakfast (it the ‘done thing’ at Tuscan spa hotels) but everyone dresses up for dinner.

Suite at Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort
Suite at Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort
Bathrobes at breakfast at Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort (everyone wears their robes, not just us!)
Bathrobes at breakfast at Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort (everyone wears their robes, not just us!)
View from the restaurant at breakfast
View from the restaurant at breakfast

Downstairs overlooking the thermal pool Michelin-starred All’Acquacotta offers an innovative take on classic Tuscan cuisine with the likes of ‘Cinta Senese’ pork chops and nettle tortello stuffed with ricotta cheese from Manciano, a small town located just down the road from the hotel. Next door there is the equally impressive Aqualuce which serves sophisticated yet authentic local dishes such as a classic starter of buffalo’s milk mozzarella and Parma ham.

Dinner at All’Acquacotta. Note the (very) empty plates!
Dinner at All’Acquacotta. Note the (very) empty plates!

Don’t let the understated menu descriptions such as ‘fresh home-made pasta with tomato, garlic, bacon and chilli pepper’ fool you, this is some of the best food you are likely to have during your entire time in Italy. At both restaurants ingredients such as the famous Morellino di Scansano red wine, Chianina beef, and local cheeses and salami all come from ‘just over the hill’ in the words of our charming waiter. Each restaurant has fabulous food but the service comes a close second, with warmth that is typically Italian combined with consummate professionalism.

View from the restaurant as night begins to fall

After busy days spent exploring the surrounding countryside we did struggle a little with the somewhat late 8pm opening time for both restaurants, something we later discovered is the norm in Tuscany. However, it was definitely a case of ‘good things come to those who wait’. We entertained ourselves with a glass of wine at the Spring Bar before dinner.

Drinks at the bar before dinner
Drinks at the bar before dinner

As you can see from the photo below, the sunsets from here are stunning and there is live musical entertainment available most nights too. When we were at dinner the music would drift over the water, adding an extra touch of romance to our dining experience. The renowned on-site spa has won so many awards over the years that the hotel must be running out of space on the walls by now. The spa has over 50 treatment rooms but bookings remain essential, something that attests to its popularity.

Sunset over the pool
Sunset over the pool
Terme di Saturnia Spa
Terme di Saturnia Spa

There is a dazzling array of services to choose from including ‘spa and swing’ packages which combine a few rounds of golf with a relaxing spa treatment. In addition to standard offerings such as massages, the Terme di Saturnia Spa also offers regenerating moisturizing treatments using their own (excellent) skincare range. My only regret is I didn’t buy more of the products before I left. Tuscany is a long way to go for another jar of face cream but any excuse will do when it comes to returning to the beautiful Italian region of Saturnia, and the Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort.

Disclosure: The writer was a guest of Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort.

If you are passing through Rome while you’re in Italy and looking for things to do, we enjoyed touring the Colosseum and also our food tours around Campo di Fiore and Trasevere. If you want something a little different, check out these Rome hidden secrets.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.