“The waving vapors on the surface of the dark water, bubbling here and there, made that complex of houses with simple charm a strange universe out of time, luminous and vaporous, in which bathers of all centuries, Roman togas or Renaissance dresses could have found themselves…” (from the book “Toscanes” by Pierre-Jean Rémy).
One of the most unusual villages in all of Tuscany is undoubtedly Bagno Vignoni.
Why? Because it has as its square a thermal pool 49 meters long and 29 meters wide, called “Piazza delle Sorgenti”. You’ve never heard of it, huh?
Once they called it Bagni di Vignone or Bagni a Vignone. It takes its name from the 11th-century castle of Vignoni, northwest of the village (practically here).
Sort of like Vignoni “Beach”, basically…yeah, okay, it was bad, I’m aware of that!
The village falls within the Val d’Orcia and is a hamlet of San Quirico d’Orcia, which is only 5 km away, and is close to the Via Francigena. It rises in an elevated position (306 m asl) at the foot of which flows the river Orcia.
A bit of history
About 30 souls live here and it has hosted illustrious personages. The first among all Santa Caterina da Siena. It seems that her mother had decided to bring her here so that the mundanity of the thermal bath town would deter her from taking the vows.
Next is Lorenzo the Magnificent who in 1490 came here to relieve his pain due to gout.
At last but not least, Pope Pius II, the Sienese pope, and many artists.
But the thermal waters were already exploited by the ancient Etruscans and then Romans who had consecrated these waters to the nymphs and the Gods.
In the Middle Ages
There is a document dated 1262 that attests to how the thermal waters of Bagno Vignoni were fully utilized. This is the Costituto where we read that the bath was divided into two sections, one for men and one for women. They are also reported the prices to use the thermal waters: a room 12 denari, a blanket, 2 denari, a pillow, 1 denaro.
Instead a testimony of 1334 says that the square was surrounded by palaces and taverns with a chapel in the middle; that the pool was square and divided into two parts, one of which was covered (by a roof?) to allow the bath even in the rain.
You’re imagining it, aren’t you? How wonderful!
The pool we see today is from the 16th century and contains a hot, steaming spring of thermal water that comes out of the underground aquifer of volcanic origin.
The ancient and typical stone buildings such as the Palazzo del Rossellino, together with the church of San Giovanni Battista, surround the pool among which stands out the Loggiato di Santa Caterina where the sick could walk.
From the main thermal basin of the town, the water continues its descent towards the valley floor, feeding the mills of the feudal era placed along the cliff. The mills are 4 and are carved into the rock. They were very important for the economy of the country because it allowed the operation even in summer because the source that fed them had a constant flow while the other mills in the area were stopped because of the dry rivers. This however meant working in hot and humid environments, as the temperature of the water at the source is about 122° F.
The mills were active until the mid-1950s. To dominate and control the mills there was also a tower of which today you can only see the base.
Continuing under the Parco dei Mulini you will find the free bath, precisely where the cliff on which stands the village slopes towards the river Orcia.
This too was already frequented in Roman times.
But where do these “waters” come from? Basically, the rain penetrates the ground and crosses the deepest layers, up to a thousand meters deep where it heats up and then rises to the surface: a journey that can last up to ten years.
The thermal waters of Bagno Vignoni are particularly useful for the skin and the articular bone structure.
- In 1982, the Soviet director Andrej Arsen’evič Tarkovskij, exiled for some years in Tuscany, set in Bagno Vignoni many scenes of the film Nostalghia that the following year won the Grand Prix du cinéma de création at the Cannes Film Festival, ex æquo with L’Argent by the French director Robert Bresson.
- In the “piazza delle sorgenti” is set a scene from the movie Al lupo al lupo by Carlo Verdone, in which the three brothers played by Francesca Neri, Sergio Rubini and Verdone himself bathe at night in the thermal waters. The film was released in 1992.
- In 2014, some scenes of the film La scuola più bella del mondo with Christian De Sica and Rocco Papaleo were shot.
In 2018 it was also the set of the second season of the television series “I Medici”.
- Free (about 300 meters from the square)
- Paying (less than 150 meters from the square)
- For Camper (about 700 meters from the square. Read also reviews on google)
- Free Ancient Roman Bath (directions)
- Hotel Le Terme which is right in the square (directions)
- the Hotel Posta Marcucci (directions)
- the Adler Spa Resort Thermae (directions)
If the question you’re asking yourself right now is, “is she paid to do this advertising?” the answer is, “but I wish!”
As a tour guide I am always asked for this kind of information so I guess it is part of my services 😉
Restaurants and other hotels I won’t mention for the simple fact that I don’t know them…yet! The goal is to remedy this right away 😉
San Quirico d’Orcia 5 Km
Castiglione d’Orcia 4.6 Km
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)