Monday, April 22, 2019

Another free hot springs, the Fosso Bianco in San Filippo, not quite as satisfying as the park in Saturnia

Encouraged by a recent pleasant experience at Cascate del Mulino, I decided to try another Southern Tuscany hot springs even less widely known, the Bagni di San Filippo, known as the Fosso Bianco, or white ditch. Our wives wanted a day of rest at our air bnb apartment in Pitigliano, so Roger and I headed out for an hour drive north with our swimming suits on under our clothes. Turns out, we could have left our swim suits at home, as we didn’t do more than dip our hands and feet in the water—but that doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy the visit.

The trail from the street comes in on the right side, and at first sight, the shallow
and muddy pools are not particularly inviting, nor are they very warm.
The location is gorgeous, with massive white calcium formations that look like frozen waterfalls, and for that alone the baths are worth visiting. Parking on the street is 1 euro per hour, and the trail is a short and easy 10-minute stroll. However, if one is expecting the warm pools and a gentle water massage of the Cascate del Mulino, this free outdoor park is not the best choice. We found either lukewarm muddy pools or some that were clear but cool. Since the air temperature was still moderate in spring, we decided to limit our enjoyment to the scenic beauty.

Above the trail entrance, we found this lovely pool. A traveler
from Spain had just come out, and he said he had been
disappointed because the water was only lukewarm, not
hot like a spa.
I’ve read that the park changes from year to year because of weather and human intervention on the soft calcium deposits, and our visit in mid-April may not have been the best time to go. Rainfall has been lower than normal, so the mostly clear creek passing below the calcium deposits didn’t have a lot of water—and even so, the stream itself is cool. The warm water trickles down from the white cliffs, but the shallow pools between the cliffs and the stream mix both cool and warm water, with the resulting liquid being mostly lukewarm, muddy and green-gray from the calcium.

Here you can see some of the stunning calcium formations.
But note also the small size of the stream and waterfalls.
The deeper pools in the stream are clear, but they’re also mostly cool. We could imagine that on a summer day, when the air temperature is typically in the 80s or 90s, these pools would be perfect relief from the heat. It’s worth noting that there are pools both above and below the point where the trail hits the stream, and in both cases these pools are better than what initially meets the eye. We met one group of travelers who were disappointed and appeared ready to leave without walking further, and it does take another 10 or 20 minutes of hiking to fully explore the park.

Note here the upper part of this mineral deposit, where
there are some inviting warmer basins.
Especially beautiful is the calcium deposit nicknamed the “white whale” at the lower part of the stream. We even saw several pools high on the formation that were deep enough to fully immerse oneself in water that would have come solely from the hot springs. The best pool was occupied by two teenage girls, who assured us that the water was warm, although still not as warm as the water at Saturnia, which they said they have sampled many times. As soon as they left, the pool was quickly filled by other bathers, so one may have to wait in line for the best pools.

This upper basin was occupied by two teenage girls,
who gave a good report about its warmth.
We saw other bathers climbing up the deposit with
little difficulty after the girls came down.
A traveler on TripAdvisor, Madeline of Chicago, said, “The rocky formation of the beautiful limestone formation is pretty easy to climb, but beware because the limestone does break off easily. Don’t settle for the pools at the bottom; keep climbing up because the closer to the source point of the hot springs at the top, the hotter you’ll be. Some of the pools are pretty shallow, but there are a couple that are pleasantly deep enough for one person to essentially treat as a bath with your whole body submerged. The white sand inside and the water itself feels amazing on your skin and is said to have healing powers. Also, there are dry spots on the Fosso Bianco where we could leave our backpack and towels in sight and not worry about them being stolen.”

These two had their own private pool in which to cuddle
at the lower end of the park.
Be forewarned that there are no bathrooms, snack bars or changing rooms, and your body and swim suit will smell a bit sulfurous when you leave. We recommend that you bring a picnic lunch and pack out your garbage. Also, do not park at the top of the hill when you drive into town, as you may find the parking spaces after the trail head are closer to the first ones you encounter. During the summer months, there is a pay spa available as well below the free park, with warmer water and some amenities, but it wasn’t open yet when we visited.

Overall, I much preferred the Cascate del Mulino, but now that I know what to expect, I wouldn’t mind returning to the Fosso Bianco on a warmer day with a blanket and some good food. A bit of advance knowledge can make the difference between a positive or disappointing experience.

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