San Casciano dei Bagni has a name which reveals itself. In fact dei bagni means “of the baths” referring to the thermal springs of the area, known and appreciated since ancient times: 42 springs with a temperature of 40°Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and the third water flow rate in Europe. Even emperor Octavian Augustus used to come here to have his thermal ablutions!
After a period of decline due to Barbaric invasions and the internal fights, San Casciano dei Bagni, located on the top of a hill in the southernmost point of the province of Siena, regained a recovery in 1200, mainly thanks to the proximity to the via Francigena, connecting Rome with Northern Italy and Rome.
San Casciano dei Bagni is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy and also has the Touring Club orange flag (if you read the Sarteano and Cetona posts, you should already know what it is).
The day we “visited” San Casciano was very intensive. In the morning we visited Sarteano (theatre, castle, museum and an artisan workshop) and then, after a super quick stop for lunch (a sandwich), the tiny Castiglioncello del Trinoro. We arrived at our accommodation for the night, the Fonteverde Living, at 3 pm. We had an agreement with a local tourism promotion consortium for a quick visit of the burg. So I thought it would have lasted like 1 hour 30, and only in the village of San Casciano. But it lasted about 3 hours instead. As a result we ended up dead tired, and we had no chance to relax much at the apartment. And no dip in the pool! 🙁 It also started raining heavily that evening.
Mrs Serena, who accompanied us, was funny, cheerful, very very lively (I honestly envy her energy), but I would have preferred to see less things and with more calm. But these are the hazards of a blogger. It happens a lot. In three hours, driving like crazy in the whole area, up and down the winding roads we were able to see:
- the highlights of San Casciano
- the free thermal baths close to the village
- the detached church of Santa Maria ad Balnea (including the stop to take the keys at the adjacent hotel, cause it is not always visitable)
- Fighine, a tiny burg with a castle, perched on a hill. And we clearly took the unpaved road. The burg is now almost totally private with rooms, apartments, a church and a Michelin starred restaurant, run by chef Heinz Beck. I don’t know if you have Netflix and you’re interested in cuisine, but I personally watched “Chef’s Table” in one swoop…o quasi (almost in one swoop).
- the hamlet of Palazzone (where Serena lives and has an agriturismo)
- and finally the lovely village Celle sul Rigo, where people were chatting just outside the doorsteps, or leaning out of the window.
When we returned to San Casciano, just the time to have a shower, post something on My Corner of Italy’s profiles and we had an appointment for dinner.
San Casciano dei Bagni – What to see
- At the entrance of the burg you will find Piazza Matteotti with its magical belvedere. You will probably notice the modern bronze fountain, called La Bestia, the beast. It is a work by Iranian Bizhan Bassiri, artist who once lived in the village and created some pieces also for the Barocque church of Sant’Antonio.
- Market place with Town Hall and Castle. The latter is well integrated in the urban pattern but it is actually very recent (built in 1911). Inside the Town Hall you can visit the Stanze Cassianesi (two rooms with relics of a nearby necropolis).
- The XVI church, the Colleggiata di San Leonardo, with its magnificent medieval portal. This portal was discovered only in 1948 in the wall of the adjacent Oratory. The municipality decided to placed it in the present position due to its beauty. While walking to reach the church I noticed a sign on the theatre wall “Accademia Georgofili Accalorati”. Clearly that’s a thing in this area. In Sarteano there were the Arrischianti Academy (those who take risks). Here the Academy of the “overheat agriculture lovers”. Very bizarre! 😀
- Chiesa della Concezione, a XVI century oratory located in the Piazza del Pozzo (Well), preserving a fresco by Pomarancio. Surely worth a visit.
I had not the chance to see them cause (as said before) we were in a terrible hurry, but other highlights of the burg are: Palazzo Fabbrucci, Palazzo Bulgarini and Palazzo dell’Arcipretura, former religious authority seat that hosted for centuries prelates coming from across Europe for thermal treatments. Then you can see the remains of the ancient fortified walls. Among them, the Porticciola, the most difficult to conquer, due to its upward position. You can also walk along via della Pace o via del Silenzio (Peace street or Silence street).
Surroundings just outside the burg
- Bagno Grande and Bagno Bossolo, ie the free thermal baths, two ancient pools (called vasconi, meaning big tubs, by locals) fed by thermal waters.
- Just outside the burg you can visit the most ancient landmark of San Casciano, the church of Santa Maria ad Balnea (XI), built on a V century temple, dedicated to health goddess Igea. Very beautiful frescoes.
- A little farther there’s the Portico della Ficoncella (1607), a porch built by order of Grand Duke Ferdinando I. The porch now adorns the Fonteverde spa, a prestigious thermal complex where you will find modern facilities to enjoy all the advantages of the thermal experience with all comforts you may need. The treatments can help in case of problems to the muscular and respiratory systems and the waters have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
San Casciano dei Bagni Events
The main event is the Palio of St. Cassian (second Sunday of August), with a competition among the four contrade, called Campanile, Pozzo, Porticciola and Gattineto. The peak is the corsa della ranocchia, which means the frog race. Oh my God, I absolutely have to see this! This is right he kind of quirk thing I adore. The competitors must run pushing a cart on top of which there’s a frog. Of course the purpose is to arrive at the finish line without losing the frog.
Another event is the Ciaffagnone Festival (on the 2nd and 3rd weekends of June). Ciaffagnone is some sort of crepe sprinkled with Pecorino cheese (or sugar for the sweet version). Speaking of food, for dinner we opted for a restaurant in the burg, where the chef likes to revisits the local dishes. I tell you everything in the post about Ristorante Daniela.
Insomma (in conclusion), I reckon I’d have to go there again because I had not the chance to visit properly San Casciano dei Bagni. There’s more to explore!