In the heart of the Tuscan Via Francigena, one of the most important European walking routes running from Canterbury UK to Santa Maria di Leuca in Italy, lays a spectacular place Bagno Vignoni, one of the selected sites of the pilot “Thermal Heritage on the Ways to Rome”.
This small village is unique in Italy thanks to its main square – which is , a real swimming pool of 50 x 30 meters, full of hot thermal water. This square was built in the Renaissance period exactly above the source of thermal water used by the ancient Romans.
Both the Etruscans and the Romans loved the thermal water springs for hygienic reasons but also and above all, for their beneficial medical properties. Since the 9th century, both these spas in Bagno Vignoni and near-by those of Bagni San Filippo, located a little further south, were mentioned in old travel diaries of abbots and pilgrims heading to Rome or Jerusalem.
Some of most famous historic characters frequented the baths of Bagno Vignoni, such as Pope Pius II, Catherine of Siena, Lorenzo the Magnificent to name a few. The baths of Bagno Vignoni always provided always provided the town with running water even during the hottest summer months, which is why several mills were built along the Orcia river in the vicinity of thermal sources over the centuries.
On 30 August 2021 a technical visit to this area was conducted by the team of the European Association of the Via Francigena ways (EAVF), in charge of the rurAllure communication and a partner in the Thermal heritage pilot, namely Massimo Tedeschi, EAVF president; Luca Bruschi, EAVF director; Elena Dubinina, rurAllure team leader in the EAVF; Simona Spinola, communication expert; Nicole Franciolini, project assistant.
The delegation visited the archaeological park “Parco dei Mulini‘ (Park of Mills) of Bagno Vignoni, a complex system of water channels and gorges, and the thermal sources in the vicinity.
The team saw the limestone hot source of Terme di San Filippo, immersed in the Val d’Orcia, which can reach 50 degrees Celsius. These hot sources are free of charge and are well-known for their lime formation and waterfalls, the most well-known of them is called “White Whale”. Nearby travelers can discover Saint Philippe Caves (Grotte di San Filippo), a small oratory built in a large block of travertine.
It takes its name from San Filippo Benizi who in the thirteenth century – according to tradition – took refuge in these places and contains a plaster bust of the saint from the eighteenth century and a wooden crucifix.
In Bagno Vignoni there are numerous resorts and thermal hotels: among them Albergo Le Terme Wellness & Charme, a 15th-century building used as a summer residence by Pope Pius II Piccolomini.
The thermal heritage is one of the points of greatest interest for those on a pilgrimage in Europe. Find out all the details in our pilot at this link