Lazio’s hot springs are among the region’s most brilliant and unique attractions, in my opinion. Hot springs abound in the Viterbo area. Terme dei Papi is probably the best-known spa with a proper struttura, but other springs can still be found in the area that are more nearly in their natural state.
Several years ago, a friend told me how to find Terme del Bagnaccio after a day out at Lake Bolsena, so I took a detour on my way back home and wasn’t disappointed. I was told that the spring could be found by turning off on the SP7 signposted to Marta (see map below). I then looked out for a ruined finger of Roman wall on the left not long after the turn-off to Marta and took the unpromising-looking unsurfaced road. After rattling along the track amidst a plume of white dust, I was amazed to come across one of my most magical discoveries in the region.
The area consists of about six baths or tanks with seating shelves that contain water at different temperatures. A strong smell of sulphur pervades the air. Water from the spring is directed through pipes to the various baths in turn as the water bubbling up from the ground would probably be too hot to bathe in straight away.
After my first visit, the Terme became a firm favourite and I visited it the year round. One of the most memorable visits was on New Year’s day, soothing a hangover in the hot waters on a freezing day.
Sitting around in the pools makes you feel heavy and relaxed with silky-smooth skin. The sulphurous fumes are also reputed to have their own special medicinal properties. I’ve also learned that the Bagnaccio is on the Via Francigena pilgrim trail, offering rest and succour to tired feet.
I hadn’t been to the springs for a couple of years and decided to visit them with my friend Russ earlier this year (March 2015). Human intervention had always seemingly been minimal at the site, but now it is managed by its own Associazione and you have to pay an annual subscription of €40 to use the baths, though it seemed possible to take a one-off trial dip for a donation of €5.
A sprinkling of rickety-looking huts had sprouted up, offering drinks and picnic facilities and an army of camper vans was parked nearby.
Due to the caravans and sulphurous smell, a less-than-impressed Russ described it as “a trailer park at the gates of hell” but I beg to differ: when you are lying in those warm, relaxing waters in the middle of the countryside gazing up at blue skies, a dramatic dusk or even stars at night, you feel transported to heaven.
The Bagnaccio is quite strictly policed now and photography is not allowed, but we managed to sneakily snap the photos on this page just after sunset.