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A little history


The Terre di Siena are, at the same time, very ancient hot spring sites and leading edge spa centres. Past and present combine to renew and enhance wellness. The places which provide a home to these springs make the wellness experience in the Terre di Siena unique: from Bagno Vignoni’s medieval pool to Chianciano Terme’s most modern facilities deep in the land of the Etruscans, from Rapolano Terme’s enchanted scenery to San Casciano dei Bagni’s ancient nobility, from Montepulciano’s harmony to Castiglione d'Orcia’s, Petriolo’s, and Radicondoli’s uncontaminated nature.


Water is one of the prominent features of the Sienese Clays. It provides a decorative element to the landscape, and also the means of therapy: the hot springs offer treatments for the skin and for the motor and respiratory systems. Rapolano Terme is synonymous with hot springs and therefore wellbeing.

Find comfort in the vapours of the San Giovanni Spa and of the well appointed Antica Querciolaia Spa Complex and let your body and mind relax. In this corner white limestone, more than clay soil characterises the landscape. The surroundings are enriched by towns like Armaiolo, with its characteristic “wrinkles” (narrow lanes), and by castles, fortifications (Modanella, Poggio Santa Cecilia), and traces of Etruscan and Roman settlements.


If we could see this southern edge of Tuscany in depth, we would discover that the Val di Chiana and the Val d’Orcia look like an island emerging from a lake of hot spring water that extends from San Casciano dei Bagni to Siena. This centuries-old cohabitation with so many springs, flowing cold, lukewarm or boiling hot water a bit everywhere, has influenced deeply the culture of these places, contributing to the significant improvement of its inhabitants’ living standard.
For this reason too, the Terre di Siena have been appropriately defined as “water lands.”

“... and for November you shall go to the baths of Petriuolo with thirty mules laden with money...”

The late 13th century writings of Folgore da San Gimignano, referring to the Petriolo hot springs, make it clear that in those days the hot springs only benefitted well off people, if not the decidedly rich. This situation, to a degree, lasted through later eras, when entire papal or seigniorial courts would travel with their whole retinue to “take the waters” at the most fashionable springs. To mention a few: the Pope Pius II Piccolomini and Lorenzo de’ Medici were two of the best “customers” of the hot springs in Petriolo, Bagno di Vignoni, and Bagni San Filippo. But also personalities further removed from worldly life, like Saint Catherine from Siena and Saint Agnes from Montepulciano, renewed their physical wellbeing at Bagno Vignoni’s and Chianciano’s hot springs.

Later, during the high Renaissance, the fashion of “taking the waters” continued to further reinforce a centuries-old tradition. It is by now well established that, in the Terre di Siena, the origins of hot spring-based wellbeing coincide with those of the area’s history.

The healing properties of hot springs have been known for thousands of years: archaeological finds still surface today to attest to the existence of ancient Roman hot springs and Etruscan temples consecrated to the springs’ deities. One of the earliest medical prescriptions in this field, one that goes back to the early 1st century A.D., is probably that which Musa, Emperor Augustus’ personal physician, gave to the poet Horace, recommending to him the hot and cold springs of the Chiusi area.

Since those days, many civilisations were born, declined, and flourished again, here too, through the darkness of the Middle Ages and the light of the Renaissance, all the way to our days. The tradition endures and more names are added to the long list of those who land every year both at the oldest spas and at the more modern ones. There are so many small capitals of wellness, so many small shrines consecrated to
cultivating psychological and physical balance in harmony with nature.

The places are the same that one reads about in the records and memories of our ancestors: Radicondoli, Rapolano, San Casciano dei Bagni (a location that can boast the label of “most beautiful spa in the world”), Montepulciano (famous by now for its odd, but ideal, combination of its marvellous wines and its healthful waters), and Chianciano Terme, the unchallenged capital of spa social life, patronised by personalities from the world of culture, show business, literature, and politics. In the recent past, it has welcomed Marc Chagall, Luigi Pirandello, Juan Peròn, and Federico Fellini who found inspiration for his masterpiece film 8 ½ in this, much beloved, town.


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