Italy is well known for its thermal baths and spa resorts. After all, the tradition started two thousand years ago, when the Romans developed sophisticated water systems and aqueducts. The tradition is very much alive today with many thermal spa towns to choose from. Living in Rome, the closest one is Viterbo, located an hour north in the Lazio region. This is where Romans go to relax on a winter saturday or sunday afternoon.
There, the terme dei papi , or Popes’ baths as they are called, are unique for their all-year-round outdoor pool, heated naturally by the warm spring water coming from the nearby Bullicame source. The best time to go is winter, when the pool is steaming due to the difference in temperature between the hot water and cold air. It is particularly relaxing for the mind and the body to sit or swim in hot water, while breathing the fresh air and looking at the surrounding pine trees. Its high sulphur content is said to be beneficial for the lungs and joints. The spring was well known during the Renaissance, when Viterbo was part of the Papal States, and was a regular health retreat for the Pope and his entourage. Luckily for us, those places are more democratic today!