Saturday, June 2, 2012

Styx, Roger and the Romans too

Hot springs landing
So in the claim for fame category, there are not many places that actually boast of an international airport with the afixation of hot spring added to it, albeit in Italian. But such is the case for Lamezia Terme.

But possibly it's just a gimmick to attract an expected flow of soakers. 

Wikipedia mention that Lamezia Terme is a municipality existing since the late sixties of the last century and actually consist of 4 towns, one of which is Sambiase. On the history of Sambiase it adds: 
'The baths of Sambiase was in a famous Roman itinerary Tabula Peuntigeriana so it was a important destination. The thermal baths of Sambase were great and famous place of comfort and rest for wayfarers, soldiers, messengers, in the ancient times they was called Aque Ange'. 
Apparently thereafter nothing much occurs for 10 centuries until:
'Robert Guiscard with his brother Roger during the difficult attempt to conquer Calabria, stopped to the thermal baths together with their team of soldiers'.
After that there's no more historic account of the soaks, so it seems. At least according to wikipedia. The hot spring is also not mentioned in wikipedia's main sights of Lamezia, so what has happened?

From the main Lamezia commune website some of them mystery is lifted. If my interpretation of google translate is correct and with reference to Le Terme di Caronte and the following paragraph: 
'Leggiamo sugli < Annali Civili del Regno delle Due Sicilie. Fasc. 87, Maggio e Giugno 1847:...parecchie delle nostre acque sono andate perdute coll'andare degli anni, per sprofondamenti tellurici o per le formidabili alluvioni del torrente Bagni. Solo l'acqua di "Caronte" è tuttora intatta e nella quantità e nella qualità e nell'azione terapeutica'.
Earthquakes and floods were the main reasons mentioned in 1847 why of the four hot spring sources only one, the hottest (Caronte), remained. 
But what about nowadays?

Modern day Lamezia tourists also seem not to be directed to any potential soaking. Tripadvisor, Wikitravel's Calabria & Virtualtravel nada. No mention of a hot spring. Rough Guides, Lonely Planet and Fodor same same. 
It seems the only acknowledgement of Lamezia Terme for tourists is it's airport! maybe they should rename the place to Lamezia Aeroporto!

Keeping it in the famiglia
Anyway, I found myself with some time to kill, having to wait for my flight out and decided that a little dedication should enable me to find the local soak. 

Additional information on internet reaped from the site of, the spa establishment:
'Terme Caronte’s rich mineral water originates from underground springs and flows through limestone and crystalline rock before surfacing. The temperature of the water, around 39ºC, is due not only to the high geothermal gradient of the area, but also to the extreme depths of the springs and the speed with which the water rises; the water finds an outlet in the Catanzaro fault line, which runs from Capo Suvero to Capo Staletti. The two springs are among the most important in Italy, due to their acclaimed therapeutic properties.
The water has been officially classified as “sulphureous-sulphate-alcaline-earth-iodic-arsenical”. These qualities of the water are recognisable by the yellow-greenish colour and by the hydrogen sulphurous smell. These properties are essential in the treatments used at the Terme Caronte Spa, and can also be found in the revitalising mud baths'.  
Unfortunately adding these kind of photo's hardly encourages a visit.

'To make the most of our treatments, each session at our Beauty Centre is adapted to suit the needs of our clients. Some of our most popular treatments include exfoliation treatments, mud packs for face and body, lymph drainage, arama balneotherapy (balneotherapy is the total or partial immersion of the body in thermal water), all of which are carried out under the watchful eye of our highly trained and qualified staff'.
And how it sells itself:
'Terme Caronte is a modern spa dedicated to satisfying the needs of its customers. We strive to strike a perfect balance between the latest technology and a full appreciation of our rich historical and cultural heritage.
The Spa benefits from a state of the art “Wellbeing” zone, dedicated to relaxation, improving one’s general health and the treatment of blemishes through the rich, revitalising mud baths. The Terme Caronte Spa provides an ideal place to prevent, treat and cure skin ailments in a pure, natural and welcoming environment'.
I just wonder if the aforementioned Romans and the teams of soldiers of the past had to be waited on by the white coats?  How many of those brave souls could afford the cheapest treatment, an inhalation: a breathing cap over nose and mouth through which one inhales the sulphurous gasses?

Not my cup of hot water? 

Two positives though: one, the terme is family run since 1716 which gives it a uniqueness. Part of this is their efforts to establish a museum, in Italy that can take some time .... that's the two.

No pay for the ferryman
Or actually three, as it also points out where the terme is located, a fact that most tourist related sites overlook.

Still not much to trod off to. The above mentioned spa website and the way it sells itself is unappeasing, little local character, same-same experience as is all over the globe, catering the posh and loaded, etc., etc.

If I had not looked up Terme Caronte, that is. There is a enticing blog entry by Lesley Peterson concerning the Terme:
'The spa's symbol is Caronte (or Charon) himself, the boatman of Greek myth who ferries the dead across the Styx.  There are free spots to soak alongside the road just opposite the spa and here, near the source, it is easy to imagine Charon poling his way across the Hades-hot, underground river'.
But it actually the accompanying photo's which show that a thorough soak is on the cards.

So off I went. It seemed straight forward, from the town of Sant'Eufemia Lamezia, walk the road up to the hills and you'll come across the spring. 
However the road was a long dreary, straight and busy stretch of road with absolutely nothing to add as a distraction. Buses were seen, heading the other way, but not where we were heading, drats. 

An hour and half later the road had thinned out, traffic was gone and it had started to wind itself through the village of Caronte, a typical blink and you'll miss affair. 

Going by the prevailing odour, we were near and there, just beyond the reaches of the village, along the banks of the river, is a delightful pool of hot water. A huge car park is nearby but other than a few other soakers nobody around. The surroundings are far from pristine but the waters look very good and clean, time to soak!

From a wall beside the lower side of the road water flows into a triangular pool. The water then flows to a basin to collect the water which is probably pumped back to the spa which is located on the other side of the road, further upstream. 


Another thought occurred, public transport is non-existent, well the twice daily bus just left as we arrived, yea! 
Slog back? No we hitch-hiked, still allowed in this part of the globe! Well worth the effort.

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