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December hedonism at Saturnia

Every country has its own way of enjoying itself. At least, this my explanation as I sit a mite awkwardly amongst hundreds of scantily dressed hedonists enjoying the tepidly warm, milky white waters of Saturnia.

Saturnia, taking the hot waters

Saturnia was an Etruscan hilltop town surrounded by rich, megalithic-type tombs that was transformed into a Roman colony. (Close to the church is a little museum dedicated to the archaeology; the Via Clodia gate also survives.) Lost in the rolling hills of southern Tuscany, it seems to be well off the beaten track. Until you follow the twisting road into a secret basin bisected by a meandering river. Here on the marble white terraces below a mill gather the young and old, along with the dogs to bathe al fresco in the frothing waters. The sight would be improbable in summer but on the 29th December, notwithstanding the cloudless sky, it is simply mesmerizing.

Saturnia, the Via Clodia gate

Most come prepared with thick towelling dressing gowns. They strip down to minimalist norms in Italy – as though it were a Tuscan beach – and plunge into the waters. A drone whirls around to take in the scene, a pair of old ladies, head to toe dressed in black, have deck chairs and dangle their toes into the milky mass. The scene is utterly carefree. Two hundred metres away is a gated spa with its own golf-course.


It is all so relaxed. Christmas has passed but the call of work is still days away after New Year. Paradoxically there is something very civilized about the unabashed pleasure in nature’s warm gift. Added to that it is also free to bathe and park.

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