Today, visitors can partake in a wide range of experiences here, from remote and natural pools to luxurious resorts and day spas. Collectively, they are the Terme dei Papi, attracting numerous locals and tourists from around the world.
When Romans conquered Viterbo in the 3rd century BC, they discovered the wide range of thermal activity both east and southeast of the city. The most important source spring, called Bullicame, was tapped to develop and enlarge thermal baths, adapting them to Roman life.
By Medieval times, the pools were widely revered for their wellbeing and curative properties. Having a strategic position along the ancient Via Francigena, Bullicame already attracted visitors from far away. In fact, even Dante Alighieri found himself there, likening the thermal springs to a scene from hell in his work Inferno.
As Viterbo was a Papal City, with the papal elections taking place here in the 1200s, numerous Popes used the pools. Pope Gregory IX, in 1235, was one of the first known Popes to come here. Later, in 1404, Pope Boniface IX famously relied on the water and mud to treat his aching bones.
It was in 1450, when Pope Nicholas V decided to invest in the redevelopment of the area, that the current Terme dei Papi (Thermal Pools of the Popes) truly came to life. Buildings and infrastructure followed, including sequential modernizations and enlargements over the years.
Today, the most famous structure for visitors is the Centro Termale delle Terme dei Papi. The large historic pool is connected to a 4-star hotel, a spa with various treatments, and offers a restaurant and a coffee bar. Another hotel, the Centro Termale Grand Hotel Terme Salus, is also worth visiting. Both areas are private, and daily passes can be purchased at reception.
For those seeking a free experience, two areas stand out as good options. The first, Piscine Carletti, is approximately 2 km outside of the center and offers 58 °C (140 °F) waters. A wider range of temperatures can be found at the Sorgente Termali del Bagnaccio, about 8 km from Viterbo, which offers pools up to 66 °C (150 °F), or more comfortable at 29 °C (85 °F).
If you’re visiting Viterbo or anywhere else in Tuscia, a visit to the Terme dei Papi will surely leave you feeling refreshed and renewed.
Pictures from www.termedeipapi.it and by Giovanni Zagaria.