Before modern civilization, before the Romans, and even before the Etruscans, the god Saturn had enough with the men on earth who were constantly at war with one another. He decided to fling a thunder bolt at them which created a huge crater and a stream of warm, sulphurous water. This water shot into the air and then covered everything, which quieted down the warring populations. The men who were born in that place afterwards were wiser and happier…or so the story goes.

I’ve been busy, which is good for an hourly employee, but also suffocating for someone that works at home. I needed to break out, but I wanted to do something relaxing. Normally this would call for a trip to the beach, but mid March weather does not encourage beach combers. However, it dawned on me this might be the perfect weekend for a daytrip to the free hot springs of Cascate del Mulino in Saturnia.

Saturnia Cascate del Mulino Landscape

I haven’t been to a hot spring before, they smell and somehow encourage public nudity. Which is why I didn’t seek them out. In Tuscany there are many to choose from, and mostly in private and often luxurious settings. I contemplated visiting the nearby private Terme di Saturnia, but I couldn’t resist trying out the original. I mean, ancient steaming powder blue waters thundering down rocks, rushing down natural travertine pools and cascading into the Tuscan countryside, for free? It didn’t sound real, and definitely too good to be true.

If you plan on visiting the falls there are a few really important things to note:

  • There are no restrooms or changing rooms. People either change creatively under their towels or in their cars.
  • Remove all silver jewelry, it will turn black in the water.
  • Keep your hair out of the water, more on that later.
  • You will smell, for at least a day or two, no matter how hard you scrub. And any clothing you come into contact with needs to be washed at least twice to get the sulfur scent out.
  • Bring dry clothes to change into afterwards.

Despite the springs not exactly having a GPS friendly address, we were able to find them after spotting them from the distance on the road that leads into Saturnia. Parking is usually available, when we were there the dirt parking lot was closed but we easily found parking on the street.

As soon as we opened our car doors the smell of sulfur hit us hard, but it wasn’t as overwhelming as I feared, and after a few minutes we hardly noticed it.  We changed into flip flops, grabbed our towels, followed our noses to the base of the falls, and set up camp on the rocky beach. It was a cloudy chilly day, and we were both more than a little hesitant to strip down to our suits and join the strangers. But one toe dipped in the warm steamy water and I quickly had a change of heart.

After a bit of manuvering over slick rocks and rushing water we relaxed in the pebble filled pools and high fived over finding a place that’s so naturally perfect and unique, and of course free.

Saturnia Hot Springs

That feeling lasted for about five minutes, when my husband looked down into the water and calmly said, “There are worms in here.”  I insisted that he was kidding until he pointed out what looked like a quarter inch long piece of reddish debris, and then to my horror, it wiggled. I frantically splashed it away and concluded it was alone after scanning my surroundings.  I reassured myself that this is a natural spring in an outdoor area, creatures live here, it was just a tiny worm and I needed to get over it. I stayed in that denial state of mind for about five more minutes until we moved to a different corner and were suddenly surrounded. I stayed calm because no one else was running screaming from the pools, and there was no way we were the only ones that noticed them, but I also noticed that ten minutes seemed to be the average stay in the pools.

We stayed in the water long enough to take a few pictures, because worms or no worms, it’s still beautiful. Then we high tailed it out and made sure we didn’t carry any passengers with us. So gross.  Never a good sign for a destination if you have to check your  body for parasites afterward.

Since yesterday I’ve done some googling and found out that the worms seem to be something that occassionally happens in the springs, though I don’t know if they are seasonal. By all accounts they seem to be harmless. Just don’t get your hair wet, I read horror stories about getting them out of hair.

But the most disturbing part is the source of the water itself. The springs run through the nearby spa before they make their way to the falls. Which means we are really just sitting in the discarded spa water. Ew. I showered again after reading that.

I can’t love every place I go to, and though the falls weren’t the relaxing experience I had hoped for, I can’t say they were totally disappointing. The setting was postcard perfect, the spring crowds were light, the drive was lovely, and we definitely left a bit wiser. My advice: Soak at your own risk.