You really never know what to expect when you visit the Maremma area. So little is known about this corner of Southern Tuscany. First time tourists almost always miss it. Instead it’s often the domain of seasoned travelers who have already seen everything else Italy has to offer and are looking for more. More often than not, they’re blown away. There is nothing quite like it. Here quaint medieval and Renaissance towns are separated by thick forests of chestnuts and sprawling green fields of olive groves that stretch to the sea. Secluded, they’ve become their own little worlds, separated by diverse histories and cultures, but united by their love of quiet and good food and wine.
Le Cascate del Mulino are amongst all of this, the symbol of the unpretentious beauty and the positively enviable landscape the Maremmani enjoy everyday... or at least for me. The first time I visited these waterfalls just outside the town of Saturnia I thought I was in complete and utter paradise. Now that sounds cliché, but at the time it perfectly summed up how I felt watching the waterfalls rush into pools etched into travertine rock over the centuries to create a natural spa, where the water is warm and the view is to die for. Actually the word warm doesn’t really do this water justice. It’s 37°C constantly and comes from a source underground containing sulphur and other minerals, which I’m told have been curing minor ailments since the time of the Romans.
Thrifty locals think the Cascate del Mulino are their best kept secret. Most tourists enjoy the same water in the world-renowned spa complex down the road, completely unaware of these waterfalls, which are often filled with Maremmani gossiping and showing off. I too can’t resist the pull of them. The entry’s free and I think they’re complete antithesis of the modern and at times cold spa. After all, sitting in a man-made pool with tiles and concrete as far as the eye can see can hardly be compared to soaking in naturally carved rock wells with the sound of waterfalls rushing behind you and the splendour of the Tuscan countryside before you.
Personally, I’m addicted to these waterfalls. I visit them all the time. Even in the middle of winter, when I’m barely coping with the freezing European climate that’s nothing like the Australian one I grew up in. Sure it’s torture getting your gear off, but once you’re immersed in the waters, it’s indescribable heaven, trust me. Take my advice though and make sure you set aside plenty of time to enjoy the warm waters, regardless of whether you're brave enough to take a dip in winter or prefer to wait for warmer weather. I have seen people who are usually punctual lose hours at these waterfalls, and I don't blame them. The extremely welcoming waters combined with the picturesque beauty of the landscape is simply too good to leave, like a jacuzzi in the middle of paradise! And if you get there early enough, you can often beat the crowds and enjoy the gorgeous view and warm waters just like the local do.