The hydro-mineral and hydrothermal basin in Viterbo is one of the largest in Italy. It consists of various sources, mostly hyperthermal sulphurous-sulphate-bicarbonate-alkaline-earthy, whose temperature varies from 40 to 58 degrees.
The thermal waters of Viterbo were known of and used by the Etruscans, who had already discovered the well-being and therapeutic properties that can be drawn from these waters. Historically, the Romans were most dedicated to spas; they gave hot springs an architectural form, creating various establishments.
In what is now the territory of Viterbo, the hot springs were so extensively enlarged by the Romans that ruins and remnants are found today in a span of about 11 kilometres to the west of the city. The Romans relied mainly on three sources: Aquae Passeris, Paliano and Bullicame. The Bullicame is perhaps the most well-known for its characteristics, its reference in Dante’s Divine Comedy and Michelangelo’s drawings of the beautiful spa environment. The Viterbo thermal waters were appreciated by many popes in the medieval and Renaissance periods, including Boniface VIII, and in the 1400s the therapeutic properties of the Viterbo springs convinced Nicholas V to build a residence to stay in town and enjoy the extraordinary natural heritage of the hot springs for cures and baths.
Thermal waters in Viterbo
Today, the tourists who wants to relax at the hot springs or make use of the sources’ undeniable benefits for the human body can choose between two sophisticated establishments, equipped with all services and an adjoining hotel (Terme dei Papi and Terme Salus), or between three well-equipped natural areas (Masse di San Sisto, Carletti Pools, Bagnaccio Thermal Park) for a healthy dip in the waters, immersed in nature.
The Terme dei Papi complex is within walking distance of Bullicame, a sulphurous-sulphate-bicarbonate-alkaline-earthy fluoride source with 58° water that has always been appreciated for its therapeutic qualities. Its noteworthy virtue lies in the chemical-physical characteristics that make it suitable for many therapeutic uses. The same source feeds a beautiful monumental pool of over 2000 square metres.
These hot springs became “Le Terme dei Papi”, the Pope’s Hot Springs, thanks to a third pope: Nicholas V. He found these waters so beneficial in the treatment of his ills that, in 1450, he built an attractive building at the location, to be able to stay in case of need. The building with the crenellated walls, the beautiful cross-shaped windows and the halls covered with large vaults, has been called the “Bagno del Papa” ever since – the Pope’s Bath.
Later, Pius II promoted other restructuring and modernisation work of the large spa building. Besides the pool, the Natural cave stands out as a unique treatment: a natural Turkish bath where 58° waterfalls warm and saturate the atmosphere with beneficial vapours.
The establishment of the Terme Salus is a modern building that stands at the entrance of the city, along Strada Tuscanese, not far from Bullicame, the Carletti Pools and other hydro-mineral springs. An impressive complex with over eighty rooms, built within an extensive private park, with pine trees, green spaces, natural sources, it is recognised among the most respected accommodation in Viterbo.