Tuscan destinations like Florence and Siena are well-trodden by tourists, but if you’re looking to get slightly off the beaten path, try the tiny town of Bagno Vignoni. Located on the Via Francigena, a pilgrimage route to Rome in antiquity, this hot springs town continues to embody the ideas of health and wellness today.
The town is perched on a hill above the picturesque Val d'Orcia, part of a Natural Park and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. During Roman times, Bagno Vignoni was such a popular destination that its city planners created a “vaporous piazza” -- essentially a gigantic central tank for the town’s thermal waters. This year-round destination enjoys temperate weather, and during your visit, you may see steam wafting from the piazza’s surface.
Although Bagno Vignoni only has 36 permanent residents, many well-known personalities have taken the waters here through history, including Lorenzo de Medici, Pope Pius II, Saint Catherine of Siena, and Oscar Wilde.
The Adler Thermae Toscana resort -- the top-rated resort in town, according to TripAdvisor -- has extensive wellness facilities, including natural thermal pools, a bath with salt steam, an olive wood sauna on a lake, ice fountains, and a caldarium with locally produced herbal scents. What sets the wellness retreat apart from others, and gives it solid value, are the resort’s complimentary classes, including yoga in thermal water, hydro biking, and Nordic walking. A roster of included excursions lets you explore, too. One of them takes you on an eight-mile hike through the countryside past peaceful wineries, small estates, and the Castello di Ripa, a 13th century castle-turned-hotel. You’ll arrive at a private winery, Podere le Ripi (owned by the coffee maker, Illy) where you’ll take a tour and enjoy samples.
Whether you’re staying overnight, or just day-tripping in from elsewhere in Tuscany, you can enjoy a thermal bath without checking into a resort. Just remember to bring your own swimsuit and towel. The watery piazza is off-limits for bathing, but you can take a free dip at the Parco dei Mulini, which is a short walk from the town center. You can also book spa treatments and enjoy the pools as a day guest at the Adler Thermae Toscana, mentioned above, or at another nearby resort, the Albergo Le Terme.