Every day, throughout the year, many tourists choose to visit the Tuscia region to relax in its prestigious thermal springs. The area is well-known for having one of the richest hydro-mineral and hydrothermal basins in Italy, earning a special place in the hearts of both Etruscans and Romans from ancient times.
THERMAL WATERS, TREASURE OF THE ETRUSCANS AND ROMANS
The first to discover the benefits of thermal springs were the so-called “Tirreni,” another name given to the Etruscans due to their apparent origin from the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is believed that they even pioneered the concept of true “wellness paths,” complete with mint and hops foot baths, sea salt and clay scrubs, and many other treatments associated with relaxation and entertainment at the numerous thermal springs in the region.
The Romans learned these practices and customs from the Etruscans, making thermal springs the center of their expansion in central Italy. This is well evidenced by the major roads attributed to them, such as the Cassia road, which connected thermal springs used as base points for the development of their castrum.
Today, the many archaeological sites in Tuscia remind us of how these springs brought fortune to these ancient peoples. Locations like Ferento, Vulci, Orte, and the Castel D’Asso area near Viterbo are perfect examples of how the ancient populations of the Viterbo area wisely chose their settlements.
PURIFICATION SEEKING IN THE MIDDLE AGES
During the Middle Ages, the thermal springs of Tuscia continued to attract numerous visitors. In particular, the sulfuric springs were excellent places of refreshment for pilgrims on the Via Francigena, providing a rejuvenating stop after their long journey to reach the Holy City of Rome.
Notably, between 1257 and 1281, the city of Viterbo became a papal seat. The popes themselves, such as Pope Alexander IV, carefully chose today’s capital of Tuscia for its characteristics. Likewise, Pope Nicholas V chose the local springs for relief from his ailments, further enhancing the area’s reputation by constructing prestigious structures.
Later on, even the great painter Michelangelo visited the thermal springs of the Viterbo region, as evidenced by some of his sketches depicting places like the Bacucco Baths, which are located along the road leading to Lake Bolsena.
THERMAL WATERS TODAY
Even today, the thermal springs remain a true treasure for the entire Tuscia region, to the extent that locals have considered renaming the capital to “Viterbo Terme.”
The “modern Romans” are still among the most frequent visitors to local public and private thermal baths, especially those in Viterbo and Orte. A perfect example of this tourist tradition is the Salus Terme Hotel, an exceptional lodging facility that offers unique relaxation from the thermal springs, as well as prestigious rooms, treatments, and wellness programs to explore.
Its privileged location just outside the capital makes the hotel the ideal starting point to explore the surrounding area. Not far away, we find the necropolis of Castel D’Asso, the archaeological site of Ferento, and the Bulicame, a natural thermal spring even mentioned by the great poet Dante in the 14th canto of his Divine Comedy’s Inferno. Just steps from the Salus Hotel, directly in front of the Bulicame springs, we also come across the Viterbo Botanical Garden, a marvelous example of how sulfuric waters have allowed flora to thrive, under the expert management of the University of Tuscia.
A few kilometers away, as we continue to explore the thermal springs of Tuscia, we find the opportunity to discover the vast natural and archaeological area represented by the Vulci Park.
This area was once a great Etruscan-Roman city, comparable in power and importance to today’s major metropolises. It is now rich in remains of buildings, tombs, and sites to visit, all immersed in a large park famous for its local flora and fauna.
Nearby, we also have the chance to visit some of the most typical villages in Tuscia, such as Canino, famous for producing one of the world’s most renowned and awarded extra virgin olive oils, and Tessennano, the smallest municipality in the province of Viterbo, nestled between nature and developed on typical tuff rock.
Another intriguing place, connected to the urban and thermal development characteristic of the Romans, is also provided by the nearby city of Tuscania. Rich in history and known for possessing one of the most beautiful and well-preserved city walls in the province, the town is located near the archaeological area of the Tomb of the Queen. Right here, we can still observe the remains of what was called the Queen’s Bath, a place of sacred waters that once served to purify those who chose to immerse themselves in it.