What you need:
– 4 other friends, 1 of whom can drive stick
– A credit card, maybe two
– Bathing suit
– Sandals (advised)
– Mini-plug for iPod connectivity (if you can find one)
– Box wine (optional)
This trip involves renting a car and going on an adventure that takes you into southern Tuscany.
Estimated cost: Look at the bottom
Your destination: Saturnia Hot Springs, located near Manciano.
Generally, these beautiful pools have a temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When I visited in late December, the water was not quite this warm, but it was still extremely comfortable and a great way to escape the cold for an afternoon. Obviously, this place is gorgeous and your friends back home might assume you visited a rainforest on your trip abroad (watching them salivate with jealousy is half the fun). The drive will take you approximately two and a half hours if you don’t make a pit-stop.
On your way you will have the opportunity to pass through several beautiful cities including Bolsena and Pitigliano. I advise not looking up photos of these cities on Google before leaving, as half of the excitement is turning the corner and being awed by these hidden gems.
Renting a car
The first step is to call the Maggiore car rental agency, located on the left side of the Perugia train station (easily accessible by getting off at the Fontivegge Mini-Metro stop). Ask them for a quote, and be honest about your age because you will have to pay a small fee based on whether or not you need young driver’s insurance. This is the only agency that rents to individuals under the age of 25.
We paid approximately 100 euro split between five people for the car, which we had for 24 hours. You will also have to pay for gas, which ended up costing us 40 euro total, 8 each, a half tank in total. Make sure you return the car with a full tank of gas!
Maggiore opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m., but to avoid paying any extra fees, you will need to return the car before your 24 hours are up. If you return after closing, park the car in the train station paid parking lot, leaving your ticket in the front window. Drop the car keys in the slot in the front door of the Maggiore/Avis front door and you’re good to go.
Getting out of Perugia. Destination: Saturnia!
Now here’s the dicey part- getting out of Perugia. Your map won’t save you here, so unless you have a GPS you are just going to have to use the street signs. You’re trying to get to the main highway–A1, E45, Terni or Roma. Any of these names or numbers is golden as far as you’re concerned at this point. And one more piece of advice–BE AGGRESSIVE. Drivers in Italy are merciless, cunning and occasionally evil. Make sure that you’re driver doesn’t cave under pressure, and if they do, consider calming techniques like back massages and soothing music.
Okay, so you made it. You’re heading south on the highway. Follow your Google Maps directions. What? You did print our directions, right? Wow. Thought you had been travelling in Europe for a while now. Maybe you should have tried this later on in the semester, when you were more experienced. Oh well. Luckily, you can probably make it there by following those highway signs. Your first major stop will be Todi. From there keep following signs toward Baschi, then Bagnoreggio, Bolsena, and then to Pitigliano. After Pitigliano, road signs will guide you straight to Saturnia (look for the brown sign with the picture of a fountain on it).
Don’t be afraid to stop for pictures. After Todi, these are places you can’t access without a car, so explore! The sights in Bolsena and Pitigliano are worth a couple stops for pictures and perhaps a quick lunch.
At the Hot Springs
When you get to the hot springs, drive down the road and park in the parking lot on the right-hand side. Both parking and the springs are free entry, and I would advise leaving your things in the car, tucked in the trunk or under the seat.
Make sure you stay at the springs until the evening, as the steam rising from the pools and the bonfires are a sight to see on their own. Also make sure to find some of the soft mud in the lower pools.
This stuff will exfoliate and soften your skin for weeks and give you a pleasant sulfur musk for attracting members of the opposite (just kidding- the smell goes away after a shower).
We left the Maggiore agency around 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning and returned the car in Perugia around 8 p.m. My only regret is that we were too tired to take that badboy for a spin around the circle. I hope that you can accomplish what we could not.
In the end, I spent 31 euro for the entire day:
20 euro for the car rental
8 euro for gas
2 euro for a slice of pizza in Bolsena
1 euro for a box of wine
These estimations reflect a group of five, assume that the price will increase with a smaller group (so will the fun).
Thanks to Ian MacDonald