While I was studying abroad in Florence, Italy (Summer 2013) my roommate and I did a day tour to a hot mineral springs spa just outside of Siena. Because the tour included a dinner in Siena, the starting time was well into the afternoon. By the time we arrived at Terme di San Giovanni it was almost closing time. We practically had the place to ourselves! The sunset on the surrounding Tuscan hills was incredible and even better enjoyed from the relaxing thermal waters.
The spa consisted of three, gravity feed pools; the lower in elevation and increasingly farther from the spring’s origin, the cooler the temperature. The hottest and closest pool to the natural spring was indoor. The second one, outside and a level below the first, was a medium temperature. It was a nice break from the steamy, sauna-like first pool. This is where my roommate and I first slathered ourselves with the mineral mud from the bottom of the pool. It was exfoliating, yet gentle. We covered our arms and shoulders, and my roommate even covered her face (at the insistence of our guide). We let the “mud” harden, then rinsed it away. It tingled ever so slightly; I loved the feeling. The third and coolest pool proved to be a little too crisp for us, particularly because the sun was going down and the wind had picked up a little.
After our dip in the pools, the spa provided us with soft robes and little soaps (body wash, shampoo, and conditioner). While the “miracle mud” had made a noticeable difference (warmer, more radiant skin), it really dried my body and hair out, even after washing the thermal waters away. The next time I visit a hot mineral springs, I will definitely bring along a rich moisturizer for my body and some argon oil to spritz in my hair.
Our day trip included dinner in Siena, but since the tour group ended up just being the two of us, our guide took us to Monteriggioni instead, the so-called “Crown of Tuscany.” The nickname comes from the circular shape of the city’s 13th-century walls and their fourteen towers. Our tour guide said only approximately 400 people actually live within the walls. The area is basically all pedestrian. Monteriggioni is well-known for its Festa Medievale, one of the most famous annual medieval festivals in all of Italy.
We really lucked out… our guide knew the owner of a little restaurant in Piazza Roma, the main square. (I tried finding the name of the restaurant, but unfortunately I had no luck.) My roommate and I, sitting at an outdoor table, first cooled off with a refreshing glass of local white wine and savored a traditional Tuscan antipasto plate with meats, pecorino cheese, and bruschetta.
The sun was setting as we started our il second piatto (second course). It consisted of two different pastas. One was a penne rigate-type noodle with a simple pomodoro (tomato) sauce. The other pasta was like spaghetti, but thicker/doughier and its meat sauce consisted of local, wild boar. If I could have either dish again, I’d like a combination of the pomodoro sauce with the spaghetti-like noodles. YUM!
The owner served us a cannolo(singular of cannoli)-themed dolce piatto (dessert course). It included a mini cannolo, a cannolo-like “pie,” and a custard ice cream. It was SUPER tasty!
We had a lovely little view from our patio table. Directly across from the restaurant is the simple Romanesque church, Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta. Unfortunately, I was not able to visit the inside.
Enjoying the thermal springs of San Giovanni, and particularly enjoying a delicious dinner in Monteriggioni, were a major highlight of my time studying abroad. I highly recommend a trip to a Tuscan hot spring! A stop by Monteriggioni is a must if you’re in the area.