Journalist and publicist Giovanni Faperdue is a true Viterbian: with being a citizen of the town of Viterbo (Lazio, Italy) comes the love for its surrounding naturally occurring hot springs. With a keen interest in local history, he takes special interest in the Termi del Bullicame.
This translates into Giovanni taking up the presidency of the Associazione Il Bullicame: a group of interestees in the public cause of the Bullicame hot spring source as well in the conservation of other local springs. High among their priorities is keeping the hot springs public and free for all to use.
I met Giovanni on a sunny Friday mid-morning earlier this May at the site of the Bullicame hot springs. Dressed in black, he contrasts greatly with the swim wearing soakers and sun-worshipers who have descended on Bullicame to use the springs and surroundings as Viterbo’s public beach.
“Welcome to Il Bullicame. The hot springs of Il Bullicame have been used for a long time. Il Bullicame was referred to in Dante’s Inferno”.
How did the association come into existence?
"Well people have been coming to Bullicame for a long time. From the times of Etruscans and Romans. Some time back we became concerned with the state in which the terme was. Especially when we noticed that the hot spring was in full swing but the waters flowing to Bullicame were lower than before. We looked into this and concluded that the commercial operation called Terme dei Papi was extracting more water than it would be legally permitted. Together with the local government we have been trying to get the Terme dei Papi to be held to its restricted amount.
Besides this we raised awareness about the situation in which the springs were to be found. Consequently the government has found funds to enclose the surroundings of Il Bullicame so as to improve the management and upkeep of the site, as well as re-designing the pool areas. Now volunteers from the association keep the terrain clean, keep order and with some facilitation by the local council keep the small and large pools clean. As per our associations statute I have been voted president for a term of five years. We have 600 members, unfortunately though many are not paying their membership fees otherwise we would be able to expand our activities. Now we are mostly dependent on cooperation with authorities.
The Piscine Carletti pools and car park
The association also have the management of the hot springs by the name of Piscine Carletti, another local hot spring no more than 1 km away. Here the local government has problems keeping the site clean. The overflowing trash bins are only cleaned once a week.
Another further two sites have been earmarked for future projects mostly in the sense of conserving the surroundings, so as to ensure that these sites which are now on private land will enter the public arena. Do you have time?”
Taking care of soaking business.
We do, but when Associazione Il Bullicame president visits the hot springs he always has to address a number of issues. These heard / resolved, we speed away. Ten minutes later we park the car along a winding country road. There is a small path which we follow for 25 meters to a scrub-lined hillock. On top is a 5 by 2 meter whitewashed pool which emanates the telltale signs of sulfur. Here the Romans were known to bath. But since, it has degraded somewhat and now this bath stands on private land with the only potential soakers some cattle and those in on the secret. The landowner has no interest in restoration nor in any visitors. We could see evidence of a soon to be resurrected barbed wire fence. Giovanni explains that this place is called Asinello.
“The water here is the same source of that of Bullicame. Below Viterbo is a big underground lake of hot water, because at the site here, at Il Bulllicame, at the pools of Carletti, at Bagnaccio and San Sisto [roughly 20 km apart] the temperature is just below 60°C with the same mineral qualities. Here at Asinello the flow is probably just 3 liter / second and intermittent so the pool is not too hot”.
The Asinello pool.
Earlier evidence points to a cooling system which just hints that Asinello has seen better times.
“As an association we want to keep the hot springs of Viterbo free. In for instance San Sisto they have been charging entrance fees even though they have no concession to do so. This is not right. The government does nothing against this. We should do more to ensure rules are adhered to and public access is guaranteed”.
After a thorough exploration of this pool we return back to Bullicame where our roads part.
Giovanni, thank you for being so welcoming and able to discuss and clarify the affairs of Viterbo's hot springs, it was really appreciated. Having just spent a week in Viterbo I have had a great introduction into the significance of hot springs for Viterbo's touristic future.
Let's hope that these remain open for all to enjoy.