Mineral Springs & Monteriggioni, a Tuscan day trip

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.

Incredible views!
Incredible view!

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.

Hottest pool to the left, inside the building.
Hottest pool to the left, inside the building.
Medium-temperature pool to the left, and the coolest on the right.
Medium-temperature pool to the left, and the coolest on the right.

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.

Thermal spa robe
I donned a comfy robe and enjoyed the setting sun.

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.

Crown of Tuscany
Monteriggioni, the Crown of Tuscany.

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.

monteriggioni antipasti
Typical Tuscan antipasto plate.

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!

Monteriggioni pasta
Delicious housemade noodles.

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!

Monteriggioni dolce
Connolo-inspired final course.

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.

Monteriggioni church
Church of the Assumed Saint Mary

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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.

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Helpful links regarding Monteriggioni:
Official Tourism website
General information
An article by Discover Tuscany

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Ciao!

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Photo Diary: Pisa, Italy (Summer 2013)

Unfortunately, I only spent a few hours in Pisa. It was summer aka incredibly hot and crowded. I wasn’t a fan of the city, granted I didn’t see much of it. The “day” trip over from Florence, where I was studying, was rushed….. my roommate was flying out of Pisa headed for Paris, so I tagged along to see the Torre pendente di Pisa (Leaning Tower of Pisa). We took a bus from Florence to the Pisa airport, then a bus from the airport to the tower complex. Sadly, no one really pays any attention to the cathedral or the baptistry. I really wanted to go inside both, but like I said, the trip was rushed – roommate had to catch a flight, and I needed to get back to Florence for something that seemed more important (although I can’t remember what that was anymore). The second time I was in Italy (October/November 2014), I skipped Pisa. Maybe the next time around I’ll spend more time there to get a better sense of the city, away from the ultra touristy locations.

Here’s a small photo diary
of the couple hours I spent in Pisa
(aka just in the Piazza del Duomo)…

(Click photos to view their captions and in full size.)

Have you been to Pisa? Did you have a chance to get away from the touristy locations?