exploring the hot springs of saturnia


Earlier this week Porter and I woke up around 4:30 in the morning and quietly made our way out of our hotel and through the archway that leads from the walled city of Pienza into the Tuscan countryside. We got into our rental car and started the hour and a half drive to Saturnia, a lesser known part of Tuscany locally-famous for its natural hot springs. We’ve collectively been to Italy about seven times, but before this trip neither of us had even heard of this place, let alone visited. I’m so glad I not only came across a photo of Saturnia a few weeks before we left home, but also that it happened to be a reasonable driving distance from one of our stops in Italy. Porter questioned whether waking up in the middle of the night was really necessary, but we both now fully agree that it definitely was (even if I did have to listen to the Fellowship of The Ring audiobook there and back because he was driving).


This place comes at you out of nowhere. Tuscany is a gorgeous section of Italy but if you’ve driven through one patch of countryside, you’ve basically driven through it all. Except when it comes to Saturnia. On the drive there, all of the roads look more or less the same, then a valley opens up below you and you see these tiered sets of milk-white hot springs perfectly segmented into multiple levels of mini hot tubs, steam rising off them creating a kind of mystical, time-freezing scene. These baths have been here a long time, a long long time. There are myths about them that go all the way back to Ancient Rome and reaching them, especially at such an early hour that you’re essentially in total solitude, is almost a religious experience. The waters really warm and there’s barely an sulfur smell, which is awesome because no one wants their car to smell like a hard boiled egg the whole ride home.


Even though the waters hot, the scene is super wintry, with all the white rocks and steam and pale blue water. Porter kept trying to freak me out by saying the Night King was probably going to pop his head out any minute, and even though I didn’t laugh because my ears were still bleeding from the audiobook I’d been forced to endure, it really did sort of feel that way. Game of Thrones could easily throw in some scenes from Saturnia and you’d still feel like you were North of The Wall.


I’m so grateful we got to visit and especially happy that we did so early. Apparently this place gets absolutely packed at normal hours, so I’d really advise anyone wanting to not share what essentially is a bathtub with a bunch of strangers to set the alarm and get there as close to dawn as possible (but if you’re into bathing with strangers, go at noon).


It’s crazy how waking up just two to three hours before you normally makes the day feel almost doubly as long. Port and I love the feeling of having already gotten something done and looking down at our watches (alright, our phones) and seeing that it’s only 9 or 10 am. At home we used to do this after early morning tennis on the common or pre-work coffee dates at George Howell. Back then, we were stretching the time out we had together because it felt so limited. Now, our options every day are pretty much endless (& so are the hours we spend together) but we still find ourselves wanting to slinky-stretch them out as far as possible. I don’t think either of us have quite shaken the reality that there’s no Monday coming up where he’ll go one way and I’ll go another, and I think that’s probably in some ways a blessing.




Anna Lisa & Porter

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