Seven Things to Know about Bagno Vignoni, Tuscan Thermal City
This little town sits atop a hill above the River Orcia, 20 minutes from Pienza, just a few more from Montalcino and Montepulciano, and an easy 40 minutes drive from Siena. An ancient system of thermal pools and waterworks, channels and races, recently uncovered by archaeologists, sits just outside the medieval center, and there are several plaques that explain the site and excavations to visitors.
The pool itself is surrounded by the town walls, a metre and a half tall. Ancient buildings, many designed by Bernardo Rossellino to honor Pope Pio II, and the arcade where Santa Caterina di Siena stopped on her journey here, make up the rest of the medieval scenery. This place seems truly of another world, and one must stop and slowly drink it in to realize that it exists, almost perfectly preserved, in the midst of the 21 st Century.
Until the 1950’s, this area, called the Parco dei Mulini, still contained water-powered mills that were important to the economic health of the town. Once excavated, bits of history, much older than thought, were discovered.
The chalky waters of Bagno Vignoni are rich in sodium chloride, calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium sulfates and other minerals thought to have curative properties. They are said to be particularly beneficial to the bones and skin, as well as the joints and reproductive system. Saint Catherine of Siena, Lorenzo de Medici, and Pope Pio II took these waters, and reported their healing effects.
There is a large hotel in town that offers its pool and spa services to the public, and surprisingly, this tiny town is also a terrific place where to taste traditional Tuscan dishes. The restaurant La Parata and the Osteria del Leone are both well known for their delicious local offerings.
The name of the restaurant derives from the Italian verb “parare,” meaning, “to cover”. It is appropriate because the roof of the current restaurant was, for 200 years, the covering of part of an ancient inn that once stood on this spot. Chef/owner Giancarlo Diodata changes his menu frequently to reflect the seasons, and his personal, inventive take on traditional dishes is delightful.
You can visit Bagno Vignoni in our cooking vacation in Italy, along with other Tuscan Gems such Pienza, San Gimignano and Siena. It is a culinary tour designed so that you can experience the best Tuscany has to offer!