When the internet isn’t working, the postal system has gone rogue and there’s a Metro strike in the city, the only thing to do is what any good Roman does to recharge, and that’s take off to the healing waters of Viterbo.
Viterbo is a small medieval village on the road to Tuscany only a couple of hours outside of Rome. Pretty in its own right for sure, what makes it really special is that it’s home to unique healing hot thermal springs.
These bodies of water have been attracting health pilgrims since the 3rd century AD. Word of the wellness benefits spread and during medieval times Viterbo became a popular hangout for the Vatican after a hard day with the conclave.
Since the 13th century Roman Pope’s have been visiting the springs to remedy everything from kidney stones to gout. So much so that in 1447 Pope Nicholas V built a palace there which has today become the ‘Terme di Papi’ (Baths of the Popes). Previously frequented by Michelangelo and Dante, it has now transformed into a weekend retreat where the everyday ‘popolo’ can come and bask in the benefits.
On arriving we thought a 30-minute loll in the hot baths would be more than enough before we explored the offerings laid out by the day spa, but three hours later we were stupefied at how relaxed and invigorated we felt melting into the steaming water. The contrast between the crisp winter air and the hot pool is invigorating. However, the real therapeutic benefits come from a mineral rich brew bubbling from the local spring.
Bullicame Spring is a 12km fracture in the earth’s crust that has released hyper hot thermal waters. An intense mineral cocktail of iron, sulphurous salts, magnesium, fluoride and calcium bicarbonate bubbling away at 58 degrees Celsius.
The springs also churn out a rare kind of mud that is rich in nanobacteria and algae yielding actives like phytosterols, fatty acids, phospholipids and terpenes. The waters and mud are famous for their effect on inflammation, joint and muscular pain and detoxification.
What I found particularly interesting was the integration between traditional and western medicine at The Terme. The spa works with a team of medical doctors who, after diagnostic consultation, prescribe the baths, grottos and springs as part of treatment therapy for a range of ailments including vascular indications, gynecological problems, osteotherapy, gastrointestinal complaints and skin problems. I’ve seen this approach a lot in Italy. There is a beautiful marriage between the two modalities.
Most pharmacies will first offer a herbal alternative, usually more potent and effective for everyday ailments, while doctors integrate homeopathy and acupuncture into their consultations. Most Italians are likely to visit their local ‘Erborista’ (herbalist) before their doctor.
The Terme also promotes a range of medicinal inspired treatments capturing the waters unique immune building and antibacterial properties ranging from inhalation therapies for the nasal passages, mouth and gums, to genitourinary treatments including vaginal irrigation and pelvic mud therapies.
For complete relaxation the Hydrosound Baths recommend nurturing sensory and emotional therapies including underwater massage, Watsu and Ai-Chai (Thai Chi in water). It seems the offerings are endless.
For me, spending an evening watching the sun set from gold to pink in the cold air while the warm steaming baths infused the magic of their minerals will be forever unforgettable. A wonderful opportunity for deep relaxation before returning to Australia.
So, sure, I get that the transportation and the postal service may not be their strong suit, but the Romans certainly did get some things right. ‘Salus per Aquam’: Healing through Water.
* Michelle Reeve is the founder and managing director of leading spa wellness brand Waterlily Australasia. She has built the brand into a range encompassing more than 150 professional skin, body and spa rituals. Creating Waterlily from grass roots demanded a marriage of business acumen and bulldog determination. Michelle is an expert in a range of natural medicine modalities. However it is her extensive experience in aromatherapy that inspires and drives her passion to continue to deliver a true active ‘aromaceutical’ spa wellness solution for spas around Australia. www.waterlilyskinbodyspa.com.au