Tag Archives: Rome

Bagno Vignoni: Ancient Natural Spa

I was determined to visit the ancient Tuscan village of Bagno Vignoni after reading a tiny mention about it in Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel magazine  last month. Little did I know that it would be so close to our villa! This ancient gem is home to natural warm mineral baths that Italians have travelled to for hundreds of years—typically en route to and from Rome.

When you turn off the road just before San Quirico d’Orcia, you drive into the small village with the age-old vocation as a spa. If you don’t go off the beaten path, you’ll come into this petite rectangular village with a main square wrapped around a 49 meter long pool with ancient travertine buildings and a palace erected by Bernardo Rossellino for Pope Pius II.

As you sit in the shade by this pool, you’ll notice bubbles emerging from the center that are from the outlying hot springs whose therapeutic qualities have been reknown since antiquity. A 16th century inscription calls these waters, “sacred to the nymphs.”

But if you want to travel to the outlying hot springs, you need to get on foot and walk behind the village and off the beaten path. It is well worth the trek. … And Free. You can pay to have expensive treatments within the walls of hotels in Bagno Vignoni, but why not trek down to a natural aquamarine pool at the foot of a water fall?

I took my boyfriend’s 19-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter, who urged me, after we waded in the gorgeous opalescent waters and rubbed blue mud on our skin, to hike up to the water fall.

Interestingly, after centuries of mineral water flowing over them, the rocks and stone around the pools have turned into a porous, non-slippery surface.

It’s amazing as it allows you to hike barefoot, and even through the water at steep angles, without the slightest fear of sliding.

I began to feel as if I had landed on another planet.

The kids were having a ball, as the sole visitors to hike up to the water fall where the source of the waters were hotter than most showers. The feeling was amazing.

As I hiked down from the water fall, back to the pool below, the breeze from the hills surrounding the village seemed to whisper to me. My spirits lifted, even in the extreme heat.

Certain things will always bring peace and well-being: a bit of exercise, sunshine, friendly faces and a gentle breeze.

Add warm mineral waters and mud—and you’ve got a combination for deep relaxation, known for centuries.

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Slowing Down in Tuscany

View from my bedroom in Sinalunga, Tuscany

Tuscany reminds me,  in some ways, of my summers in the South. I know, there are no olive tree orchards (like you see here) or cypress tress or fields of sunflowers or lavender and rosemary bushes the size of small trees. But, with that said, one has to slow down here. It’s so hot, for instance, that you really do need a siesta in the afternoon. Stores and restaurants shut down from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and it’s completely understandable. There is no air conditioning, anywhere.  So you close all the shutters and windows during the day, walk very slowly when out, seek lemonade and gelato and try to find spots in the shade.

Lavender bushes outside our kitchen in our villa. The smell is amazing!

Everyone slows down here, especially the cats! (And there are so many wild cats!) This sweet gal hides in our rosemary bushes outside our kitchen with her babies. Of course, we are feeding her…how could we not?

Look closely. Do you see her?

What I love most about Tuscany, is that the minute you arrive, your spirits begin to lift. How could they not? On the drive from Rome, you see fields of sunflowers, or a castle up on a hill, or a Romanesque, walled town off to your left. As we pulled into our villa, I smiled ear-to-ear. How can one not be affected by such picturesque beauty?

Our closest neighbor on a nearby hill.

View from my other bedroom window. The owners of this villa owns the working olive tree orchard and makes their own olive oil. I’m sure we’ll take home a few bottles!

More lavender behind the house. My absolute favorite scent at the moment!

Get Your Knees Up!!

I am completely breathless and my feet incredibly swollen as I write this. Yet, I am exhilarated too, while en route to Italy. I have one thing to say: NEVER embark on a multi-leg journey without all of your boarding passes! I began my day in Los Angeles Airport where I was given two boarding passes and was told that getting the third would be “no problem.” RIGHT. So, I raced to make my first flight with only 10 minutes to spare, to Charlotte, NC.  From there, I embarked to Frankfurt, Germany and had an amazing experience on the flight where I made a good friend. (I will write about this amazing Italian woman, who is fighting for her daughter’s life, in my next post.)

For whatever reason, maybe US Air’s computers were down or weren’t linked correctly, but I had to navigate the Frankfort airport and to try to get the Lufthansa boarding pass that I should have been given in LA. I did this after already traveling over 12 hours. Needless to say, computer glitches—married with a communication barrier—made me nearly miss my flight to Rome. Somehow, I mustered up the courage NOT to take the pitiful advice of three negligent Lufthansa agents and I ran to security and begged a woman to let me through, sans boarding pass, to my departure gate. Somehow, miracle, of miracles, she let me through!

Basically, in Frankfurt I went to two kiosks that didn’t give me my boarding pass and was directed to a long check-in line (which of course, I didn’t need to be in, as I had already checked my bag all the way through to Rome from Los Angeles!) And then when my heart started beating overtime, I jumped out of that line and went into the first class line. When that wasn’t moving I raced over to priority. When that wasn’t moving, one snotty man who worked for Lufthansa actually told me that I would just have to buy another ticket to Rome. WHAT? I mean, this was all their fault, right? And I was already checked into the flight from Rome, I just needed a f*cking boarding pass that they should have already issued me to get on it! So I raced to security and passport control and luckily, a woman felt sorry for me after looking at my printed itinerary (ALWAYS have a printed itinerary for these multi-leg flights) and she let me through.

With 25 minutes until my flight took off to Rome, I waited and waited in a ridiculously slow security checkpoint and then raced through miles of airport, running like the wind with my swollen feet about to burst. I had to race through three terminals and to the very end of one in order to wait in another line to finally get a new boarding pass at the gate. What a nightmare!!! Luckily, I only had one light roller bag, so racing through the airport wasn’t too difficult. At one point during my race, when a very large American family blocked my way, a cute Italian pilot looked at me sympathetically, pointed and screamed “Mi Scusi!” and pushed the obese man and woman out of my way and winked, letting me continue to run through the terminal. I’m sure I ran a bit like a girl, but hey, I made it. AND…I didn’t lose it like this woman did, who missed her flight to San Francisco earlier this year. Take a look at this for a laugh. Thank God I didn’t lose my cookies like she did, but I can completely understand her stress!

So, I am now sitting sandwiched between two enormously fat teenagers from Atlanta, Georgia (what is going on, my fellow Americans??) who are going to Italy to study abroad for the summer. One is sweating profusely and I’m trying to ignore that aroma as I write. Just 90 more minutes and I land in Rome to be greeted by my adorable boyfriend who will make this trek worth the hassle! By this time tomorrow, when I’m driving with his family to our vila in Tuscany, today’s stress should be a long-forgotten, or at least humorous, memory.