When I travelled to Tuscany this October it was as part of a foursome; Nathan, my sister Lisa and her partner Peter. We rented a villa and a car and decided to what to do as we went with some must do’s (wine and food) and must sees (Florence and Cinque Terre) on our list.
One of the things we wanted to have time for was chilling out. Chilling out meaning different things to the boys and my sister and I. So on one of the days we split up, the boys rented bikes and raced through the rolling hills of the Province of Pisa’s wine route and my sister and I headed to the near by spa where they make use of one of the many hot springs found in Tuscany to fill their pools with therapeutic water.
The guys dropped us off in the nearby town of San Giuliano Terme, a very small town in which you can’t miss the Bagni di Pisa Palace where the spa is located. The entrance to the Bagni di Ponenete Wellness Centre is a very nondescript door on the far right of the building. Once inside we were happy to find an English speaking receptionist to explain all the options. We booked an offer they had for full spa access for the day including towels, robes, slippers and lovely bright yellow bathing cap (which is flattering to no man or women) costing 30EUR total. As usual in Italy proof of ID was required, yes even to spend a day relaxing in a spa. Luckily my sister had something on her that was acceptable and we were in.
We were given the tour of the spa and facilities learning 1/2 the spa is in the end of the building we entered in from where our locker room was and where there also seemed to be the entire senior population of the Pisa Province getting various health treatments in a suite of rooms. The other 1/2 of the spa was in the wing which makes up the Bagni di Pisa Palace hotel (this is the section the rooftop spa pool pictured above is). The whole building used to be a residence of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco Stefano of Lorena and was famous to nobility all over Europe in 1743, when the Grand Duke made it his own summer spa residence, as well as a fashionable meeting place. Not a bad place to head for the summer and chill with your friends.
Once our tour was over my sister and I were on our own, literally we had the whole spa pool to ourselves! The first area is very modern and new, the largest of the pools has jets that you can turn on and get a massage in the therapeutic waters that are 38C. Off of the main pool were 2 small rooms. One which had the only fresh water pool has bubbles that come out of the floor of the pool, interesting. The second room had a salt water pool, unfortunately I had shaved my legs the night before and I lasted about 1 minute – ooh the burn. Having grown up by the ocean in Nova Scotia I know how good saltwater is for you so I went back in for a second try this time hanging my legs on the edge of the pool. Luckily we had this pool to ourselves as well. It was like having our own private spa.
Next up was the relaxation room where there are loungers, herbal teas, fruit and water. This room didn’t feel luxurious but had a glass floor in one area showing 2 marble pools from years gone by giving you a feel for the history of the building. When we finished dewrinking in the Relaxation Room we paddled off in our slippers and robes to explore the spa areas found in the wing in the hotel building. One of the recent restorations on the building has tried to keep one of the original baths much the same as it would have been. Each spa pool area has it’s own vibe due to being quite different which keeps it interesting. When it was just my sister and I in this pool I tried to sneak a picture with my phone of this one as it is very beautiful but someone started opening the door the moment I took the photo and it ended up being one big blur.
After some time in this spa we head to the steam room, which recommended a cold shower after – no thank you! And finally up to the rooftop to enjoy some of the Tuscan sun. This was the busiest pool by far but eventually we even had it to ourselves as well after the lunch crowd left. And by crowd I mean about 8 others coming and going at various times.
Cycling the hills of Tuscany
The boys bike adventure started a couple of days before when they stopped in the bike rental place that Peter had scouted out online before the trip. It turned out after going back and forth down the street looking for it that it was one and the same as the Puget shop, so a good recce indeed. The night before with a map and not a lot of knowledge of the terrain they mapped out an ambitious plan not knowing if they would actually make it back in one piece. With various bits and pieces of food stuffed in their pockets and bag off they went. Lucky for them the dude at the bike shop knows the local roads and sent them off on a route that took them through the typical Tuscan hillside scenery.
As you can see from the view at one of their coffee stops they had it made for a scenic bike route. Peter is normally a mountain biker but has now been converted to road biking (will see if that lasts when he visits at Christmas and Nathan takes him on a road trip through Essex). Having biked so many hills they headed to the grocery store to stock up on supplies to make up for lost calories and then back home to the villa. Having made it back in one piece with a record of their achievements recorded on video and an app called Strava they were raving about what a great day they had for a little while that evening.
Here is a little footage from their adventure. Peter is in the red helmet, Nathan in the black.