“The sulphurous spa town resort of Acquasanta Terme should not really be covered in our online guide to Abruzzo, as it is in the neighbouring region of Le Marche. However this beautifully organic spa resort is only a hop, skip and a [22km] jump over the Abruzzo border so seemed churlish not to feature it.”
We visited Acquasanta Terme as part of a tour to Ascoli Piceno and back via Amatrice (famous for its smoked bacon) and Lake Campotosto (famous for its salami & pecorino). Acquasanta Terme is on the SS4 road in Le Marche. It is a small town, with a green valley running along the north side, and it is in this valley that the reasons for Acquasanta Terme’s name are made odoriferously obvious! Acquasanta Terme means “hot holy water”, roughly, and the name derives from the towns positioning over natural, mineral-rich thermal springs.
A sulphuric stench strengthens as you descend a little road from the SS4 into the valley; at the base of the valley a river is fed into from several cave springs, and these caves are the main draw for the numerous Italian & German tourists and residents. The caves are accessed by a series of small ladders from the river bed, via a cascade of hot (circa 38°C) mineral water that plunges into a pool containing joyful children & adults taking advantage of the health benefits contained within these waters. Behind this waterfall is a group of small caves with thermal pools and mini-waterfalls, all very busy when we visited in August!
People using these natural thermal spas of Acquasanta (and they have been since Roman times) tend just to wash in the nearby river, towel dry and go. For those looking for a less atavistic experience, there is a large hydrotherapy complex, Terme di Acquasanta, down in the valley. This seems more geared up for the medicinal application of mineral waters, with coach-loads of elderly looking people queuing up for specific treatments. We got here a tad late, and combined with not fully comprehending the check-in process and the receptionist not speaking English (+ our patchy Italian), there was some confusion…
We opted for the most basic option, which was to use their indoor, naturally heated swimming pool, but were under the impression we had to be out by 4.45pm, to allow 15 minutes to chill afterwards. On this basis, and since it was 4pm already we bolted down to the subterranean changing rooms (suspiciously deserted and with no lights on), then sped into the pool area, which again was remarkably devoid of people… we could not believe our luck! And it seemed from the many scowling faces and angry stabbing fingers coming at us from the two adjacent viewing galleries other people were somewhat incredulous too.
Eventually one particularly irate looking gentleman managed to find his way from the viewing gallery to the pool entrance; now poolside this gentleman explained that in fact we were not allowed in the pool UNTIL 5pm, and in fact we were breaching a large dossier’s worth of Health & Safety executives by being in there unsupervised. However, when with David Hasselhoff & Pamela Anderson-like subaquatic elegance we displayed our own swimming proficiency we were allowed to stay in. The pool was cloudy, due to the naturally-occuring sulphur & sodium; stings the eyes, but when rubbed into the skin helps promote smooth clear complexion…the pores open and allow a natural detox of the skin – a very nice, relaxing (in the main) and almost transcendent experience, certainly slightly soporific.
Unfortunately we had not brought any shower gel or similar, and the shower water alone was not enough to remove the smell of sulphur! As a consequence we both smelt a bit satanic for our journey home, and the smell was a ‘mare to get out of our clothes (white-wine vinegar works a treat apparently). But an enjoyable time was had, not least for the angry grannies wondering why we were allowed the pool to ourselves! The area seemed serene, the turquoise waters naturally organic, and hugely popular with the children who were having a whale of a time. Mud treatments are also available, and highly in demand.
Terme di Acquasanta
59 via del Bagno
Tel. (+39) 0736801268
Open Monday-Sunday 8.00am-11.30am & 3.30pm-5.30pm