Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hot Springs On A Cold Night

As kind of a final "hurrah" to our time in Italy myself, two of my roommates--Stephen & J.J--along with our "fifth roommate" Noelle  decided to travel to the hot springs of San Casciano dei Bagni located right across the border in Tuscany. Unfortunately, the only form of transportation that could get us there was car--and by 'car' I'm not talking about a bus. What I'm really saying is that we HAD to rent a car and drive there ourselves if this adventure were to be a reality.

Originally, we planned on leaving our apartment around 3:00 to make our 3:30 car rental appointment and after a drive of ninety minutes or so we would arrive at our destination. Following an hour or so of intense exfoliation in the sulfur baths we were to return to Perugia wherein we would return the car and take the bus back to the "centro" and likewise, our apartment. However, a common theme in nearly all of my travels around Italy is that the initial plans of the excursion rarely align with the actual series of events which make up the overall experience. This would be no different.

For starters, we didn't actually walk out of our apartment until nearly 4:00 and by the time J.J signed the paperwork for the car and we were on our way it was nearly 5:00. Fortunately, the rental company gave us a great rate (the whole trip only cost eighty euros, so twenty per person) and didn't charge us extra since--due to our late start--we would be bringing the car back the next day as opposed to that night. Now, you many be wondering "but Emerson, how were four twenty year old kids allowed to rent a car in Europe?" To answer your question, in Europe you only need to be twenty-two to rent a car and as luck would have it, J.J is twenty-two. Problem solved! The funny irony though is that even though it was J.J who took the car out under his name, it was my other roommate Stephen who wound up driving given the he was the only individual amongst us who could drive stick-shift. Sad, I know.
Crammed (comfortably) into our newly acquired Fiat Panda--a top of the line car if there ever was one--we began our trip to Tuscany. Following a short stop in which Stephen had to re-learn how to put a manual car in reverse and we (more specifically I) punched in the directions to--what we (or I) thought--were the right hot springs. Together, all four of us were on such an adrenaline high from our new found form of transportation that it took us an hour to realize we were going to the WRONG hot springs. Instead of going to the springs ninety minutes away, we were en-route to the town of Saturnia--a trip of some two and a half hours! By the time we realized our mistake however, we were already too far out of the way to turn around...oh well.

As it turned out, the longer route we took brought us through some pretty cool, windy mountain roads (sadly, it was dark out so we could only see the area illuminated by our headlights) and culminated with a drive on the outside the town of Pitigliano. Like Perugia, Pitigliano is a hilltop town though instead of man-made walls, this place sat precariously over some pretty gnarly cliffs. What made the town even cooler was the numerous lights placed in the lower value to illuminate the town. Sadly, the quality of photos from my camera are somewhat lacking given the ineffectiveness of my flash and also the fact that they were taken from a moving car. However, you yourself can be judge and if you're really interested you can Google the town.

About twenty-five kilometers (about fifteen miles for those of you who don't speak the metric system) we reached the town of Saturnia. I'll be brief in describing just how we found the free public springs in the middle of the night. Pretty much it involved walking around for nearly an hour, driving onto a agritourismo, and walking around the private property for a while before we found our destination.

Once at the hot springs we quickly changed (quickly since being outside in thirty degree weather in nothing but underwear can be somewhat uncomfortable) and jumped in. As we sat in the baths, completely surprised that we ACTUALLY made it, the clouds parted for about forty minutes giving us a clear image of the stars. Not to be cliche or anything, but it was a pretty wild experience and definitely one which will be around for a while.

Given the distance back to Perugia we only spent about an hour in the baths before jumping out of the warm water and getting dressed--and let me tell you, there is no measure to the speed in which you can dry and clothe yourself when it's literally freezing out. Driving back, I managed to sleep for all of fifteen minutes before finally arriving at our apartment slightly after midnight. Completely exhausted, we all went straight to bed--ignoring the shower which we all clearly needed to get the smell of sulfur off our bodies. The next morning, after waking up at nine, our apartment (now scattered with soggy clothes from the hot springs) smelled very much like low tide back home--or as one person so eloquently put described that afternoon, "it smells like shit in here."

Mission Accomplished.


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