Saturnia, best known as a spa destination, is to the west of Italy and the south of the Tuscany region. It is part of the municipality of Manciano.
In the hilly hinterland of Grosseto, Saturnia is situated on a hill overlooking the famous hot springs between Mount Amiata and the hills of the rivers Albegna and Fiora.
The defensive walls of Saturnia were built with the typical system of fortifications built in the region, using quite low walls that followed the contour of the hill and included several round towers.
The first walls were built by the Romans, and then rebuilt in the Middle Ages by the Aldobrandeschi, who restructured and expanded the original defenses at the same time as the construction of the Rocca di Saturnia. The walls were then rebuilt by the Sienese in the middle of the fifteenth century.
The only gateway remaining through the walls is the Porta Romana, on the south side of Saturnia, which has full-centre arch windows. The northwest corner of the walls includes the Aldobrandesca fortress (also called Ciacci Castle), not far along the walls from Porta Romana.
The castle was badly damaged in the early fifteenth century, then later restored by the Sienese.
The Rocca di Saturnia appears as an imposing fortress with walls of stone. The curtain walls have sections with a sloping lower part and a series of arrow slits at different heights and distinctive battlements, most of which are perfectly preserved. The two corner towers, with circular bases, were added by the Sienese in the fifteenth century.
The Church of St. Mary Magdalene is the main church of Saturnia and dates from the 12th century, also restored in the early decades of the 20th century. The church holds the precious panel showing the Madonna and Child between St. Sebastian and St. Mary Magdalene, attributed to the “Bottega” (studio) of Benvenuto di Giovanni* (1470-1524).
To learn more about the Etruscan monuments near Saturnia visit the City Museum, which holds many remains of the ancient "Urina" and the surrounding area, collected by scholars and lovers of the arts. Among these, the Ciacci collection comes from excavations in various parts of the region and from the necropolis of the “Puntone”, the closest of the Necropolis of Saturnia and situated on the right side of the river Albegna.
Continue with a visit to the the Saturnia Thermae - these famous hot springs were already known by the Etruscans and the Romans for their remarkable healing properties. Today, the thermal waters are complemented with techniques such as hydrotherapy, mud baths, diets, fitness, anti-stress techniques and beauty treatments.
A. Bacci, a 15th century physician, believed that the waters of Saturnia were particularly suitable for saunas and skin diseases. "The thermal springs emit sulfurous waters, particularly suitable to sweat (...) [Its hot springs] are a great remedy for all sorts of skin diseases ] (De Thermis Andreae Baccii ....)
With regard to the landscape, few writers have described the landscape of Saturnia as memorably as the English scholar George Dennis in the 19th century:
“Few ancient sites in Etruria have more natural beauties than Saturnia. Deep vallies and towering heights all around, yet variety in every quarter. Here the cliff-bound, olive-spread hill of Monte Merano; there the elm-tufted ridge of Scansano; and there the hoary crests of Monte Labbro and Santa Fiora. From the north...you command the whole valley of the Albegna” (G. Dennis, “The Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria”, London, 1848, Vol. II).
In the surrounding region you will also enjoy restaurants which invite you to spend time discovering the cuisine of Saturnia. Even those who frequent the baths to follow a strict diet will willingly forget it to try some dishes such as soup, ricotta, ravioli filled with cheese and pepper, the “triangoloni” with mushrooms, ideally accompanied by one of the excellent local wines!
See also history of Saturnia
* See notes about Italian artists mentioned in this review