Thursday, July 9, 2015

Right fight


Slip-sliding
A natural hot spring with reference's by Dante as it's Inferno (source) or sketches of it's ancient baths by Michelangelo (source)? There's no doubt that with these endorsements every tourist will be queueing up to visit such a place.

But it's not the case. 

Despite these prominent mentions, interest in the Bullicame hot spring has  dwindled to such an extent that eventually local residents were the ones to breathe a semblance of life back into this soaking source. 

Located just outside of the city of Viterbo, Lazio (Italy), it's literally sucked of it's sources by the commercial run thermal establishments of Terme di Papi and the Hotel Salus Terme

The slow descent to nothingness of the Bullicame hot spring soaking pools was halted as local soakers were increasingly asked to shift closer as the waters were disappearing; the commercials were siphoning more and more water off. Combined with the subtle hints to it's previous grandeur, citizens of Viterbo demanded their right to a soak at Bullicame itself. Lobbying the local authorities has resulted in what the Bullicame environs are today. 

For more on this struggle, see the previously published interview I had with the Bullicame unofficial ambassador Giovanni Faperdue. Note also the existence of:
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.
Under control
Despite this increase in consideration by the local authorities, little attention has been made to access: a dirt pot-hole filled road leads one either from Viterbo or from the Piscines Carletti (the other free soaking hollow nearby) towards the final lane which also doubles as the parking area. A parking area with precious little shade.

Botanical fanatics take note, early mornings one can visit the local botanical garden / slash arboretum (Orto Botanico dell'Università della Tuscia) which also has it's entrance at this non-descript crossroad.

Efforts have been made to rehabilitate the terme, the source and the surroundings, no less evidenced by the high fence which surrounds the approximately 2 hectare site. 
There's one small gate, which closes at night time, all the better to control possible abuse.



Once on site one can see a long pool to one's right with another much smaller pool beyond this, under the shade of a single tree. 

Near the center of the terrain on a slight rise is a plastic see through boarding which surrounds the source itself, a cauldron of bubbling water (below).



Though entrance is limited in time, there's no requirement for a fee. 

The larger pool offers opportunities for local residents to cool down in some (let's hope) clean waters; it's quite a large pool after all. And the quantities of sourced waters are limited thanks to aforementioned competition.
The smaller pool is a lot hotter and thus must see a good flow through most certainly meaning cleaner water.

On my evening visit I witnessed a struggle of soakers enjoying the inviting waters, while a mid-morning visit saw more soakers, though more sun worshippers than soakers most probably.

Toadal info
As seems habitual for the Viterbo soaking sites, there's not much original English language accounts / information on the internet:

The association has a website in Italian, though other than the associations charter there's no up to date info. For this it's better to keep abreast of it's Facebook page; there's a constant flurry of reports hoping for news from authorities that they will restore previous flows to the natural springs. Alas in Italian. A competing Facebook page has quite a lot of Italian reviews. I nicked the following photo of the larger pool just to illustrate it's dimensions:


There's also a limited Wikipedia site. In Italian.

Experiences. Ecobnb
'This park is also famous for hosting a toad, a protected species for which it was built a pond that collects water from the source. Unbelievable but true, the toad is the true master of the place, everything is done according to its protection'.
In 2014 Minor sights wrote:
'The city of Viterbo recently  cleaned up the whole area, put a fence around it, as well as a rock garden. It’s well-maintained, yet it’s completely free of charge and freely accessible. That’s your tax euro at work. The large pool means the water temperature varies depending on the distance from the source- choose the temperature that suits your mood'. 
Then Tripadvisor gives the Il Bullicame experience 4 stars (from 87 reviews); 90% of the reviews are in  Italian.

Seekers
With this comes the end of the postings on a number of Viterbo's hot springs, certainly worth a visit.
But Viterbo and it's surroundings has more on offer. The medieval town itself is a gem to wander around in.


Beyond are quaint villages and towns such as San Martino Al Cimino, Montefiascone or Vitorchiano
More feted on the tourist trail is the village of Civita di Bagnoregio, somehow perched on crumbling rock waiting to subside itself.

Naturally you'd appreciate the hazelnut orchards of Lago di Vico, a large crater lake surrounded by a natural reserve.

Historically there are a few palace's and gardens such as Villa Lante (Bagnaia) or the Villa Farnese of Caprarola.

Then there's the medieval Parco dei Monstri, a must see of monster like sculptures at Bomarzo.

Finally we also decided to check the pools of Orte, apparently thermal fed. Certainly seemed hot, but no soak was to be had as their seasonal opening hadn't yet extended itself to weekdays ....

Terme di Orte with no place to go ...

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