In the province of Siena, there are exceptional landscapes and some of the most beautiful are with no doubt in the Val d’Orcia. This valley is alternated with unique landscapes, vineyards of the most valuable in the world, medieval villages, beautiful and austere monasteries and creates a perfect alchemy also recognized by UNESCO which has declared it a World Heritage Site.
In this context of a rare beauty Bagno Vignoni deserves a special mention. This village is located not far from San Quirico d'Orcia and, as the name suggests, is known for its hot springs of sulphur water, considered therapeutic already in Roman times. The tiny and fascinating town is gathered around the pool which was the ancient spa. This makes the town quite singular and unique: where in other towns usually there is a square, at Bagno Vignoni there is a large thermal pool.
Bagno Vignoni was born as spa in the Middle Ages, but the hot springs at 52°C were already known and used in Roman times, as it is confirmed by the discovery of a dedicatory inscription in Latin. The name derives from the castle of Vignoni, known in the eleventh century and placed on a nearby hill overlooking the village. The castle itself is well worth a visit.
In the 12th century, the “bath” was owned by the Tignosi family, lords of Tintinnano now called Rocca d 'Orcia, under whose lordship remained until the end of 1200. At the beginning of 1300 it passed into the possession of the Salimbeni family in Siena, together with the surrounding castles and villages, whom it remained until 1417, when Attendolo Sforza, the second husband of Antonia Salimbeni, sold it to the town of Siena.
Despite the numerous wars and devastation that involved the Val d'Orcia in the Middle Ages, the appearance of the village of Bagno Vignoni has remained unchanged. The village grew into a plane halfway between the hill of Vignoni and the river Orcia, around a large rectangular basin, in which the bubbling spring is clearly visible. Around this element has developed the centre of the village, taking the aspect of a typical Roman thermal spa.
The houses and inns were built around the pool and then was built the church of San Giovanni Battista, where you can see the restored fragment of the fresco depicting the risen Christ attributed to Ventura Salimbeni, originally located in the chapel of Santa Caterina.
From the bath, passed a bridge arcade, the waters reached the spa and then went to feed a number of mills arranged on the steep edge sloping towards the river. The chronicles of the time report that Caterina da Siena stayed several times in Bagno Vignoni, brought by her mother who wanted her away from being a nun. But there are many famous people whose presence certify the good fortune of spas, like Pope Pius II Piccolomini and Lorenzo il Magnifico, who spent a period in 1490. In the 1500 Lattanzio Tolomei dictated an inscription dedicated to votive Nymphs, with verses in Greek carved on a tombstone which is still visible on one of the pillars of the porch of Santa Caterina.
The great success of the spa is also witnessed by the city of Siena, always very careful to regulate the care of its territory. To Bagno Vignoni are dedicated two articles where it was required the separation of men and women within the bagni and regulated the price to be paid for the rooms.
Since 1592 the cost of the baths was granted by the Grand Duke to the Amerigo family, with the obligation of the maintaining: in 1599 this became a perpetual agreement and together with the bath they were to keep a bakery, a butcher, a tavern and staff needed for cures, while for the annual emptying of the tank, made in May, the Amerighi family was granted to make use of the inhabitants of the Val d'Orcia. This family also built the small chapel of Santa Caterina, situated in the centre of the porch that overlooks the large spa tub.
In 1677 the Grand Duke Cosimo III feuded San Quirico d'Orcia, the small villages of Bagno Vignoni and Vignoni to Cardinal Flavio Chigi, whose descendants still partly own.
Bagno Vignoni today is known and appreciated throughout the world as valuable spa, located in a landscape of impressive beauty, in the heart of the Parco Artistico Naturale e Culturale della Valdorcia. A visit to the bath in town centre and a stop under the porch of Santa Caterina will not leave disappointed any visitor. By the village, the mills park is worth a visit, recently restored by the town of San Quirico d’Orcia, where the waters are divided into small canals and ponds and then fall into the river Orcia forming waterfalls and ponds.