I first visited the Cascate del Mulino, which literally means the “Waterfalls of the Mill,” in Saturnia, Italy on New Year’s Day. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, so it all came to me as a wonderful surprise. The rumbling waterfall, the whitish pools, the pink sky and the green and brown nature. It was simply perfect and unreal.
ARRIVING AT CASCATE DEL MULINO
I had left while it was still dark outside as I wanted to get there in time for sunrise. I was already excited from having celebrated all night and the thought of starting the new year watching the sun come up made me even more ecstatic.
Although it was cold outside (2°C) and getting undressed required a little courage, I finally dipped into the pools. The waters warmed me up as though I was being cuddled and the rushing waterfall gently massaged my neck. This made the whole experience even more heavenly.
The sun took its time to show itself as the surrounding hills were blocking the rays from pushing through. However, mother nature’s show is a spectacle and I did not mind relishing the moment. As the sun rose higher its yellow light finally touched the Cascate del Mulino, the air felt warmer and an explosion of colours occurred – the white pools became turquoise and the sky became blue. It was nothing short of spectacular.
While driving there, you might get the impression that you are going in the wrong direction. There are very few indications for the Cascate del Mulino and no natural signs indicate that you might be getting close. However, trust your navigators because all of a sudden from a bendy road on a hill you get a visual of the landscape beneath.
ABOUT CASCATE DEL MULINO
First of all, Cascate del Mulino is located in Tuscany just outside the town of Saturnia, which is known for its spa and thermal waters. The hot springs derive their name from a waterfall that builds up from a stream of hot water that runs underground and through fields. It finally tumbles down at the side of an old Mill and rushes into a series of naturally-carved pools.
Secondly, Cascate del Mulino is in the middle of countryside fields, away from city noises and chaos. This, in my opinion, makes the place even more unique. I mean, what can be more relaxing than bathing in hot water surrounded by nature, with no other sound but the rushing water of a fall?
Another upside is the water temperature. It is 37°C (98°F) in all seasons. This might be a tad bit too warm during peak summer days, but will nonetheless be enjoyable during the cooler night hours.
What’s more, they are FREE! There is no entrance fee and parking is guaranteed.
THE “CASCATE DEL MULINO” ARE NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH THE “TERME DI SATURNIA”
When looking up the hot springs on google or setting your navigators, make sure to type in the correct location!
Saturnia is renowned for its luxurious spa complex, the “Terme di Saturnia.” This is usually the first place that shows up on your search engines. However, while the pools are bigger giving you the possibility to actually swim in them, you must pay to enter. The thrifty locals will most likely be spending their time there.
On the other hand, the Cascate del Mulino comprise naturally-dug pools which hold the same water as the Terme but are free of charge. They are not deep or large enough to swim in, but you’ll have no problem lying in them and feeling completely relaxed. Moreover, the place is so much more scenic!
The thermal waters of the Cascate del Mulino originate from an underground source that is rich in minerals and sulphur. These minerals are known to have therapeutic effects and were already frequented by the Romans for this purpose.
Many locals, especially women, like to layer the white calcareous deposits onto their face and body as a natural skin therapy. Moreover, the water temperature is especially good for circulation, while the vapours are beneficial to the respiratory system.
GETTING TO CASCATE DEL MULINO
The only way to reach the Cascate del Mulino is by car. If you are staying in Rome or Florence I would recommend hiring a car.
However, if you are feeling adventurous or don’t mind having to wait around, you could try taking public transport. This is very limiting, though and you could easily end up having to venture back to a neighbouring village on foot.
Rome is about 151 km away from the Cascate del Mulino, which is a little over 2 hours drive. Florence is slightly further away (191 km) and almost a 3-hour drive. Both departing cities will take you onto the motorway and then onto beautiful countryside roads. Although the distances are quite far from the cities, it is definitely worthwhile making the trip!
By Public Transport
The closest railway stations are Albinia and Orbetello. However, not all trains stop at the former station so you might as well book tickets directly to Orbetello, which is about 2 hours away from Rome.
You then need to catch the 11-PR bus to Manciano and from there hop onto bus number 17-PR. This will be heading to Saturnia, so you need to ask the driver to stop at the “Cascate del Mulino”. Heading back is slightly different and I advise you to ask the driver for timings of the buses and where to catch them. Hitch-hiking is always a possibility too, but obviously use your best judgment for safety.
WHERE TO STAY NEAR CASCATE DEL MULINO
I would definitely recommend spending the night in the area near the Cascate. However, this depends on your itineraries and schedules. There are a few B&Bs and “Agriturismi” in the area that you can easily book online. They will surely be more homey and traditional. While driving to the Cascate, I saw some that were walking distance to the hot springs.
If you are looking for luxury, you might want to book a night or two at the Terme di Saturnia – Spa and Golf Resort, which is just outside the town of Saturnia. You will definitely feel pampered there with the spa pools, and other thermal facilities.
For the more adventurous travellers, the open grounds beside the pools allow you to put up your tents and spend the night on site. This means having access to the Cascate del Mulino all night and in the early morning hours without having to rush out of bed and make the journey.
During the day a café and snack bar are open should you get hungry or thirsty. However, I would suggest bringing your own food and having a picnic. This will be cheaper and definitely more enjoyable and satisfying. There are also toilets and changing rooms on site. Most importantly, there is a rather big parking area which is free too.
WHEN TO GO
The Cascate del Mulino is open all year round 24/7. All seasons are good to go to the Cascate. Nonetheless, I would make a few suggestions based on the season you visit:
- Spring and Autumn: It is nice to go at all times in these seasons. The days are not too warm and the hot water will be pleasant to relax in.
- Summer: During this warmer season it is advisable not to go during the day time as temperatures can reach an average 35°C and the hot springs will not be refreshing at all. So, go to the Cascate del Mulino at night when the outside temperatures are cooler and skies are clear.
- Winter: Spending your days or nights in the hot tubs is always pleasant given the contrast with the outside temperatures. I could say it is probably the best season to visit the Cascate.
However, continue to read as day time in all seasons can get pretty busy, and we all know how we dislike not getting the right pictures or finding a place unbearably chaotic.
AVOIDING THE CROWDS
Like in most touristy places, the Cascate del Mulino can get extremely busy during the day. However, there are a few recommended ways to avoid the crowds:
- Definitely go at sunrise! In my opinion, just before sunrise is the best time to go. This is when the night owls have gone to bed and it is still too early for the early birds to be up and about. You might only find a few locals stopping by for their daily therapy.
- Go during the night. You might be bumping into a few other visitors, especially during the summer, but definitely less than during the day. Moreover, temperatures are more pleasant and you get to gaze at starry skies.
- Avoid going on the weekend! Saturdays and Sundays are probably the busiest days of the week. The only time you might get the Cascate all to yourselves is at dawn. So, it would be good to organise your itineraries based on this as well.
BE ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE TRAVELLERS
I find that one can never repeat this too often. Unfortunately, the morning I went to the Cascate del Mulino was just after New Year’s night celebrations and when I reached the place there were many champagne and alcohol bottles and other rubbish in the pools and around, which just didn’t seem fair. There are bins at the Cascate, so make sure to collect your litter and dispose of it correctly.
There are many adjacent attractions, which will make your stay in the area all the more interesting. I would definitely mention Civita di Bagnoregio (also known as the “Dying City”), Orvieto and Lago di Bolsena towards inland; and Orbetello and Porto Santo Stefano on the coast.
The fascinating thing is that the Cascate del Mulino is in the southern part of Tuscany which means that you can easily cross the borders to Umbria and Lazio and be smitten by completely different landscapes and architecture. You are basically between seaside locations, hilly regions and lakes and will definitely find many cultural attractions all around.
SO, ARE THE CASCATE DEL MULINO WORTHWHILE?
Yes! I would definitely recommend visiting the Cascate del Mulino, especially if you are on a road trip in Italy or staying in a neighbouring area. Italy is well-known for its spas and natural springs and if you are close to one it is always a good idea to make time for them. Nature has a way of surprising and nourishing us and we can only try and make the most of it while respecting it too.
TO SUM UP
Opening hours: 24/7 all year round
Facilities: Café/snack bar, toilets, parking area
Where: Southern Tuscany, outside the town of Saturnia
What to Take: Swimsuit, flip-flops, towel, torch (for night dips), food and water
When to Go: At sunrise or at night – less crowded, magical mornings, starry skies
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