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Saturnia, best known as a natural springs and spa destination, is to the south of the Tuscany region of Italy where it is part of the municipality of Manciano. The town is situated on a hill overlooking the famous hot springs - the principal attraction for visitors - between Mount Amiata and the hills of the rivers Albegna and Fiora.
Although the natural springs are the main attraction here we do recommend you also visit the other historical monuments in the town of Saturnia.
First among these are the defensive walls of Saturnia, built with a typical system of fortifications for the region that uses quite low walls that follow the contour of the hill and included several round towers.
The first walls were built by the Romans, and these were then rebuilt in the Middle Ages by the Aldobrandeschi lords who restructured and expanded the original defenses at the same time as the construction of the Rocca di Saturnia. The walls were again rebuilt by the Sienese in the middle of the 15th 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 Church of St. Mary Magdalene is the main church in Saturnia and dates from the 12th century. It was restored in the early decades of the 20th century. The church contains a 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).
The Rocca di Saturnia is 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 perfectly preserved battlements. The two corner towers with circular bases were added by the Sienese in the fifteenth century.
In the City Museum you can learn more about the Etruscan monuments discovered near Saturnia. The museum holds many remains from 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 to the Necropolis of Saturnia and situated on the right side of the river Albegna.
Continue with a visit to the the Saturnia Thermae near Montmerano on the road to Manciano. These famous hot sulphur springs were already known by the Etruscans and the Romans for their remarkable healing properties.
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 ....)
This series of natural pools of hot water is open to the public without charge, and is a popular attraction in the region with Mill Pools and Gorello Falls the most visited section of the springs.
In the Spa centre established at the springs the thermal waters are complemented with techniques such as hydrotherapy, mud baths, diets, fitness, anti-stress techniques and beauty treatments. This part of your visit is not free however!
Note: photo of Terme di Saturnia is by Raimond Spekking - see copyright.
Attractions near Saturnia
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 local dishes such as soup, ricotta, ravioli filled with cheese and pepper, the “triangoloni” with mushrooms, ideally accompanied by one of the excellent local wines!
You can find more local travel ideas in the Tuscany guide.