It is easy to understand why Tuscany’s thermal spas are a favourite destination for wellness holiday lovers: a quarter of Italy’s thermal springs are located in this region and they are all surrounded by beauty that nourishes the eyes and spirit.
The beauty of the landscape and art, that unique combination that man has been able to create in Tuscany, is the backdrop to natural hot water pools a stone’s throw from enchanting villages where time seems to have stood still, hidden in the woods or enclosed within a well-tended thermal park, perhaps with a panoramic view of rolling hills.
In such a context, a day at the spa is always a regenerating experience, whether one chooses to experience it simply, in full contact with nature, in the free spas, or gratifying oneself with a stay in a luxury spa hotel.
But which are the most beautiful spas in Tuscany? Are there free spas or do they all charge a fee? Which spa resorts to choose for a romantic weekend and which are best suited for combining relaxation and cultural visits in a single holiday?
To help you choose where to go to the thermal baths in Tuscany, we have created a mini-guide with the six thermal resorts not to be missed and some practical information to help you enjoy your well-deserved wellness break.
The curative properties of Tuscany’s thermal waters have been known since ancient times: even before the Romans, it was the Etruscans who knew and appreciated them. However, given the large number of thermal springs in Tuscany, it is difficult to give a general description of the properties of thermal waters throughout the region.
Some waters are particularly indicated for muscular and skeletal pain, others are recommended for the treatment of gastrointestinal ailments, others act positively on the cardio-circulatory system… Ailments that are effectively treated thanks to Tuscan thermal waters include bronchitis, dermatitis, sinusitis, arthrosis, rheumatism, constipation, and venous insufficiency.
Generally speaking, a distinction can be made between central-northern Tuscany, where the waters have a lower temperature on average, and southern Tuscany (in particular the area from Larderello to Monte Amiata), characterised by high heat springs. Temperatures can fluctuate between 25° and 54°.
Even today, thermal cures in Tuscany are widespread, including those affiliated with the national health system, but thermal tourism today is driven more by the desire for wellness holidays than by medical needs. All the main resorts have equipped themselves with modern, elegant and comfortable facilities for tourists eager for a couple of days to completely switch off.
From a place of treatment, the thermal baths in Tuscany have thus become a place to spend unforgettable moments of relaxation, as a couple, with family, with friends and – why not? – alone.
The thermal resorts in Tuscany are scattered all over the region, but the most beautiful and best known are concentrated in the south-eastern part: here you will find Chianciano Terme, Bagni di San Filippo, Bagno Vignoni; Terme di Saturnia is still in this area, but slightly to the west, while Rapolano Terme is slightly further north. In northern Tuscany, the top resort is Montecatini Terme.
Each resort differs in the type of waters, services, hotel offerings and atmosphere. Let us briefly review here what are the main characteristics of the 6 best spa towns in Tuscany: we have then dedicated an in-depth page to each one where you can find more information and recommended hotels.
Montecatini Terme is Tuscany’s historic spa town and one of the most famous in Europe, so much so that in 2021 it was included in Unesco’s ‘The Great Spas of Europe’ list.
In vogue until the 1970s, it then experienced a slow decline from which it has risen again in recent years, enhancing both its glorious past and its strategic position. In fact, it is only 40 minutes from Pisa and Florence and is convenient to many other interesting cultural attractions.
The spa facilities have been updated while the belle epoque atmosphere has remained intact: Montecatini is therefore the ideal destination for those who associate the thermal baths with elegance, neoclassical harmony, Art Nouveau villas, illustrious visitors and want to live a romantic dream with a 19th-century flavour. It is also recommended for those who, in addition to relaxation, want shops, restaurants and places to spend the evening.
Immersed in the gentle Tuscan landscape are the enchanting natural pools of stepped limestone rocks filled with hot water from the Gorelle thermal stream: these are the Terme di Saturnia, probably the most famous free thermal baths in Italy.
Behind the highest waterfall stands an old farmhouse with a mill, which has become in the collective imagination an essential element of the Saturnia thermal baths, which are also called Cascate del Mulino (Mill Falls) for this very reason. It is currently unused, but there are rumours of a project for tourist use.
Such a beautiful and relaxing place with free access inevitably attracts numerous visitors both day and night. This is why many people prefer to pay a fee and spend their day relaxing in the thermal park next to the waterfalls.
The park includes swimming pools, whirlpools and outdoor vascular paths; attached to the park is a luxury hotel with a spa. It is possible to access the park by paying a daily entrance fee or use the services as a guest of the resort.
The spring that gives rise to the stream originates from a volcanic crater that is now located at the spa’s swimming pool. The water from the waterfalls flows into the Stellata stream and is then lost in the communal waters.
The second most famous free thermal baths in Tuscany are those of Fosso Bianco, more often referred to by the name of the nearby village of Bagni San Filippo.
Here too, as in Saturnia, you can bathe free of charge in natural water pools created by stepped limestone formations, but the difference is that in this case the thermal baths are completely immersed in a forest that you will come across as you pass the small town centre.
The free thermal baths of Bagni San Filippo are also called Balena Bianca (White Whale) after the name given to a monumental limestone formation that towers above the pools and from which the water of the Fosso Bianco river flows down. In the pools immediately below, the water is warmer and there are more people; moving a little further on, one can find other smaller but generally somewhat quieter pools.
There are currently no paid spas in Bagni San Filippo; there used to be a spa hotel with an outdoor thermal pool, but it has been closed for renovation.
Chianciano Terme is a well-known resort with a long tradition, located in the middle of the Val d’Orcia and Valdichiana, two enchanting areas famous for their splendid views. It is the recommended destination for those who want a relaxing stay with high quality services, ready to meet the new demands of wellness customers.
There are no less than five thermal waters in Chianciano, each with a suggestive name and suitable for treating different pathologies. Next to the establishments for cures are the Theia pools and the Terme Sensoriali, two modern centres entirely dedicated to wellness and relaxation, to which are added spas and beauty centres.
At one time, the historic village, today referred to as Chianciano Paese, and the area of the thermal baths were two separate worlds, but today they are incorporated into a single town.
A weekend in Bagno Vignoni allows you to enjoy the relaxation of the thermal baths and the suggestive atmosphere of a characteristic medieval village. The village itself is pretty and is a short distance from the more famous San Quirico d’Orcia (of which it is a hamlet), considered one of the most beautiful villages in Tuscany.
The thermal waters that have made Bagno Vignoni famous are on display in a large pool in the centre of the main square. Beware, however, it is not a swimming pool: you can only bathe in the luxurious spa hotels in the area.
Don’t expect spas with various indoor and outdoor pools, but you are guaranteed quality service and an ideal environment for relaxation. Although it is less well-known than Chianciano, the prices are not exactly cheap, but if you want to treat yourself to a pampering, Bagno Vignoni is the right place.
Rapolano Terme is a quaint little town in the heart of the Crete Senesi, a fascinating area south-east of Siena characterised by a landscape of hills and clayey earth hollows.
There are two thermal establishments, both very elegant and well-kept, equipped with indoor and outdoor pools, beauty centre, spa and an area for cures and therapies; they are both positioned to enjoy splendid sunsets.
The Terme Antica Querciolaia are located closer to the village, while the San Giovanni Thermal Park is slightly offset and has a view of the hills; the latter has a hotel.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
The experience of the free thermal baths is fascinating, but a little spirit of adaptation is required. There are no facilities, even minimal ones such as baths, showers or changing rooms, so it is best to arrive prepared. Make sure you have a towel near the bath; if you do not come in summer, it is good to also have dry clothes to put on immediately to get to the car without catching cold.
It is advisable to wear slippers: they are not essential but they can facilitate getting in and out of the water and avoid unpleasant slips if you move from one pool to another.
The most famous free spas, such as Saturnia and Bagni San Filippo, attract many visitors. On holidays they are always crowded and finding parking in the immediate vicinity of the thermal baths can be a challenge. If you have the chance, visit them on weekdays and in the evening hours, so you can enjoy them more peacefully.
Spa hotels in Tuscany are always in the medium-high category, usually 4 or 5 stars. You can save money by paying the daily entrance fee to the pools and staying in a b&b or flat in the same spa town. For further savings, you can look for accommodation in neighbouring towns: since Tuscan spas are generally very small villages, you only need to travel a couple of kilometres to be outside the town and pay less.
However, if the occasion is special or if it is time to treat yourself to a holiday with no expense spared, we strongly recommend staying in hotels with swimming pools. Once you are there, you won’t have to take the car out and you can shut yourself away in a dream world, far away from noise and stress.
On the page Hotels with SPA and wellness centres we have selected the best facilities in Tuscany, you are sure to find the one that best meets your needs.