The first time I visited these waterfalls just outside Saturnia, I thought I was in complete and utter paradise.
Now that sounds cliché, but at the time it perfectly summed up how I felt watching the waterfalls rush into pools etched into the travertine rock to create a natural spa, where the water is warm and the view is to die for.
Actually the word warm doesn’t really do this water justice. It’s 37°C constantly and comes from a source underground brimming with sulphur and other minerals. It’s these minerals which I’m told have been curing minor ailments since the time of the Romans.
Thrifty locals who don’t want to pay to enjoy the same water in the world-renowned spa complex down the road come to these waterfalls.
It’s free and I think the complete antithesis of the modern and, at times, cold spa.
After all, sitting in a man-made pool with tiles and concrete as far as the eye can see can hardly be compared to soaking in naturally carved rock wells with the sound of waterfalls rushing behind you and the splendour of the Tuscan countryside before you.
Personally, I’m addicted to these waterfalls. I visit them all the time, even in the middle of winter, when I’m barely coping with the freezing European climate that’s nothing like the Australian one I grew up in.
Sure it’s torture getting your gear off, but once you’re immersed in the waters, it’s indescribable heaven, trust me.
Which spa is which?
There is a lot of confusion online about the Saturnia hot springs. In fact, TripAdvisor has about 15 different entries.
There are only two places where you can enjoy the Saturnia hot springs:
The hot water flows from its underground source, which sits below the Terme di Saturnia spa complex. You can swim here, but you have to pay. There are a number of pools and waterfalls here.
The water leaves the spa complex and flows down stream, through a few fields and other rivers until it reaches a natural waterfall. This is the Cascate del Mulino. The water has carved natural pools here. You can also swim here. It’s the most scenic site and the one you see most commonly online. It is free.
The water flows into a field from here and disappears.
a few snap shots to inspire:
everything you need to know before you visit:
cost: the Cascate del Mulino are FREE. You don’t have to pay to swim, sun bake or enjoy the gorgeous scenery at any time of the year.
opening hours: the hot springs are open 24/7.
how hot is it?: the water gushes from the source at 37°C (98.6°F), but it has dropped a few degrees by the time it reaches the Cascate del Mulino.
night swimming: beware when swimming at night because there are no lights and those rocks can be sharp. Bring a torch.
best times to visit: you’re going to have an amazing time regardless of when you visit, but if you want to avoid the crowds, come on a weekday in autumn, winter and early spring. It can get cold in winter, but the water more than makes up for it.
best times to visit in summer: you’re in the Maremma in peak tourist season, so what can you do to get a little swimming space at the hot springs? Come early in the morning – before 9am – or late in the evening – after 8pm, when everyone else is at dinner.
parking: there is free parking on site. Don’t park on the road leading to the hot springs because you will get a fine. Follow it right down to the hot spring entrance and then turn right. You’ll see a huge dirt field with plenty of places to park.
toilets: there are no free public toilets. If you have to pee, there is a bar next door, but you’ll have to buy something.
showers and change rooms: again, there are no showers or change rooms on site. You are swimming in a giant natural waterfall after all. Come dressed in your bathers or change in your car.
safety: there is no lifeguard or anyone else watching out for you while you swim, so keep an eye on young children. The water mightn’t seem dangerous, but there are plenty of sharp, slippery rocks under the surface.
Pregnant women and young children are not advised to swim in the hot springs, so always ask your GP before you take a dip.
For everyone else, it’s recommended you take a break from the water every 20 minutes. Dehydration is a real risk when bathing in such hot water, so make sure you drink plenty of water!
bring flip flops: you will have a hard time getting to the best pools without shoes. Walking through the hot springs hurts. There are rocks everywhere! So a pair of slippers or flip flops will be a god send.
don’t forget: sunscreen, a towel and even a beach umbrella if you have one. There is no sand for you to relax on when you’re not in the water. There’s just dirt, so if you want a place to sit, you’ll have to bring your own sundecks. And remember, the Tuscan sun is hot in summer, so bring plenty of SPF. And lots of water or you will feel sick.
a note about jewellery: if your jewellery isn’t pure gold or silver (or even if it is), take it off before you get in the water. Otherwise it will turn green/black. Trust me, it’s happened to me too many times.
Probably not a good idea to wear your best bathers either. The water can damage the fabric.
personal safety: the Cascate del Mulino hot springs is a very popular public space. Thieves know that, so always keep your car locked and your valuables safe.
eat and drink: there is a small snack bar next to the hot springs with indoor and outdoor tables. There’s also a vending machine, but don’t expect the food to be good, cheap or particularly fresh. Bring food and drink from home. Otherwise, Saturnia and its many good restaurants are a 40 minute walk straight down the SP10.
the smell: the Cascate del Mulino flows with sulphuric water. Sulphur = egg smell. So be prepared. It doesn’t smell as bad as it used to. Your bathers and skin will stink a little afterwards, but a hot shower should get rid of the smell.
other gross stuff: the water is a bit slimy and there are red mini worms swimming around in there. I have had friends who absolutely refuse to swim in the hot springs. They say it’s too gross. This is part and parcel of coming to a hot spring. If you want perfectly clean, pristine water, head to a mountain spring instead.
health benefits: the slime you see around the edges of the hot springs is actually a grey mud mix that is very good for your skin. That’s why you’ll see plenty of people covered in it from head to toe enjoying a free mud bath. That gloop is also used to make very expensive beauty products at the nearby Terme di Saturnia health spa.
The water itself is said to cure respiratory diseases, skin problems and circulatory issues. Not sure that’s true, although my father in law used to take his sick dog to the hot springs and he said it cured him.
looking for something a little more private?
This is my insider’s secret.
There is a small stream that feeds the waterfall. Hardly anyone swims there, but it’s just as warm and all the more private. To get there, head back up the road that leads to the hot spring entrance and walk through the field to your right, beyond the line of parked cars. You really can’t miss it. It sits above the hot springs and you can see it as you drive by.
Still want more?
Check out our mini online guide with everything you need to know about the Saturnia hot springs
Beware that public transport is infrequent, so always plan your journey well in advance and travel in the morning before 9am. Timetables will change on Saturdays.
No buses run on public holidays or Sundays.
Cascate del Mulino
Via della Follonata, 58014 Saturnia, Manciano GR
what people are saying on TripAdvisor:
This was an outstanding experience. The highlight of my trip. If I could stay every day all day long I would.
Jen S / 23/04/18
We loved it here! Free parking, lots of space even when busy! They weren’t the warmest we have experienced in italy, but they were warm enough! A beautiful location to relax, this terme is a must!
Katie W / 09/04/18
Why anyone would give this place less than a 5 is hard to understand. The falls are stunning. The water (it doesn’t smell as bad as we had anticipated) calming and warm. There isn’t anyone adjusting the temperature or charging admission. It is an incredible place that looks just like the pictures on the internet!
Wendy D / 02/04/18
What everybody says that the higher the pool, the warmer the water is absolutely true. And you need rubber shoes. They are public, therefore free. Thus you have to take towels and everything you need. The enviroment is beautifull. I think the best time to go is late march and April. It is not so cold and it is not so crowded. May I guess it is fine. Maybe June, July and August it is too hot.
Patrizio33 / 01/04/18
Go early! Parking is limited enough that in season it will be hard to find a spot. We changed in the car and walked down in our towels leaving everything but bringing a change of clothes. Climb up the front with everyone else but take the time to climb up behind the waterfall to the fast flowing river behind. It is much less crowded and there are areas you can find for yourself. They offer showers that you can use by buying coins from the cantina. I think one coin was one minute of water time. Helps shower off the rotten egg smell as you carry on with your day!
Marcey M / 23/01/18
Enjoy the raw experience of the natural thermal spring water, ensure we you have comfortable shoes that are waterproof
Discover the undiscovered Tuscany like a local with the only English language guidebook. Pick up a copy in print or as a PDF, ePub & mobi and get gorgeous photos, insider tips, restaurant and accommodation guides and info on all the main attractions. Buy a copy here.