The warm Gothic waters of Bagni di Pisa make for a relaxing and enjoyable retreat

By Patrick Bènard. Fifth in the weekly ’Fuori Tutti’ series of Lucca outside the walls

This week’s “outside the walls” place worth discovering is Bagni di Pisa, a thermal pools and spa complex in San Giuliano Terme. Situated 19 km from Lucca, Bagni di Pisa is a quick 15-minute train ride away for a day of complete relaxation.

Located over a natural thermal spring known to the Romans, Bagni di Pisa’s present day infrastructure sits on a beautifully restored villa dating back to the 18th century. It was built for the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco Stefano di Lorena.  The Grand Duke enjoyed the spa life, entertaining, and hosting widely. His most famous guests were Percy and Mary Shelly. Percy, the widely unread poet, and Mary of Frankenstein fame. They spent many curative days in San Giuliano before Shelly washed up on the shores of Viareggio (more on Viareggio and its dead poet-littered beaches in later installments).  

The hotel and spa complex are located on Largo Percy Bysshe Shelley. I’ve never figured out the proper pronunciation of Bysshe but I suspect that the Italian accented version is better than the original.

Warmth, Healing and A Bit of Luxury

Today, the villa and grounds feature a five-star hotel and Bagni di Pisa: A thermal baths and spa complex focused on wellness and relaxation. The grounds and property are well cared for and render homage to the bygone era of 18th-century wellness retreats.

From Lucca, the town of Montecatini Terme and especially its Grotta Giusti is probably the most famous local destination for its warm water springs. The town of Bagni di Lucca also has a history of these health and relaxation spas, but sadly none seem to still be in operation. Bagni di Pisa in the small town of San Giuliano is your closest and best option. 

With a number of well-appointed baths and pools that offer a range of temperatures, the termes can be enjoyed without the addition of any personal spa services for around €25.  We opted for the most popular option which, for €55, includes a salt scrub and full access bath pass. Despite the chilly weather conditions of this year’s April, the outdoor pool was highly enjoyable on what was a spectacular sunny day. The year-round constant 38 degree waters create a microclimate that makes it possible to soak up some sun, despite the 10 degree reading from the weather service. 

Beyond the basics, Bagni di Pisa offers the full range of services you can expect from most high end spas — services that are either cosmetic, therapeutic or just an indulgence such as a massage. The adjoining hotel has a very pretty, full-service restaurant and “American” bar.

Magnesium, calcium and sulfur counts in warm thermal waters may or may not have quantifiable health benefits. That’s not a subject on which I have any expertise, but I know for a fact that rest and deep relaxation can absolutely work wonders with one’s physical and mental well-being.  

As always, fate ammodo e divertitevi.

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