Healing Thermal Waters – Italy

Contributed by Cinzia Galletto – Sustainable Spa Association Ambassador

The use of thermal waters for hydrotherapy, in the Mediterranean basin, was known since ancient times, as evidenced by the archaeological finds, by the literary and scientific testimonies, by the numerous epigraphs. These are treatments that have remained essentially unchanged for twenty-four centuries, with ups and downs and without prejudice to the application of advanced technologies, since the age of the great Greek philosophers. Hippocrates himself encouraged the use of thermal baths and, in the treatise “Use of liquids”, praised the virtues of mineral waters and hot springs. Over time, the application of the experimental method led to an innovative approach to the therapeutic use of water, introducing new methods of treatment. Fortunately, the evolution of society and the growth of financial resources in all social strata have made available for all the advantages of thermal treatments, due not only to the curative quality of the water, but also to the beauty and environmental attractions that generally characterise Italian spas . The concept of care, also understood as a tool to recover energy and physical fitness, is rightly associated with the concept of vacation and the intelligent use of free time.

The ancient tradition of thermal waters was thus updated and updated and, today more than ever, the application of new methodologies makes it an essential tool of modern medicine. As we know, water treatment has taken hold in Italy since the time of the ancient Romans, when the frequentation of the thermal baths and the practice of bathing were already a characteristic feature of city life. The proximity of the Italian spas to major art centers generally makes it an excellent starting point for cultural itineraries. Furthermore, the splendid parks that surround the most famous spas and the equipment and services available to tourists, make them ideal as holiday centers as well. Spas not only offer the resource of their warm waters, as even the “cold” springs are used as a drink (for mineral water treatments). The wealth of hot and cold springs derives from the particular geological structure of the land.

The curative treatments of the spas consist of hydropinotherapy (that is, drinking the thermal water several times a day), baths, nebulisations, aerosols, whirlpools, showers, gynecological irrigations, muds. Each spa, depending on the geological characteristics of the territory and, therefore, on the chemical properties of the water and mud, is suitable for treating a certain type of pathology …

Here is a list of some diseases that can be treated in a spa:

ENT and respiratory tract diseases
– Vasomotor rhinopathy
– Simple chronic bronchitis accompanied by obstructive component

Cardiovascular diseases
– Sequelae of chronic phlebopathies

Gynecological diseases
– Painful sclerosis of the pelvic connective tissue of a cicatricial and involutional nature
– Persistent leukorrhea from chronic nonspecific and dystrophic vaginitis

Diseases of the urinary tract
– Calculosis of the urinary tract and its relapses

Metabolic diseases
– Hyperuricemia, gout

Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract
– Dyspepsia of gastroenteric and biliary origin; irritable bowel syndrome in the variety with constipation

Rheumatic diseases
– Osteoarthritis and other degenerative forms
– Extra-articular rheumatism

Dermatological diseases
– Psoriasis
– Recurrent seborrheic dermatitis

The types of water:

Sulphurous waters – indicated for diseases of the respiratory system, nose, throat, but are also effective for skin diseases.

Bicarbonate-alkaline waters – useful for diseases of the liver, biliary tract, or for urinary pathologies.

Sauce waters – effective in gynecological diseases, rheumatic diseases, metabolic diseases, colitis, constipation, respiratory diseases.


In northern Italy, many spas have developed in the area of ​​the Euganean Hills, in the Veneto, whose subsoil of volcanic origin is characterised by the emergence of numerous hot springs …

Here the main thermal treatment consists of the application of mud, recommended for the treatment of rheumatic and gynecological diseases and for diseases of the respiratory tract.

A curious legend is handed down in Abano: it is said that Phaeton, son of the Sun, fell with his chariot in flames right here, causing waters capable of freeing us from fatigue and pain (“aponon”, hence the name of Abano ). Going south, we find a series of spas in Emilia Romagna, in the hills of the pre-Apennine belt. Many of them (Tabiano, Salsomaggiore, Castrocaro) identify themselves to the point with their thermal waters that the word “terme” (ie…) is part of their official name.

The springs have similar chemical characteristics: sulphurous waters predominate, but they often contain sodium chloride, iodide or bromide. These waters are recommended for many types of ailments: metabolic disorders, respiratory and vascular problems and skin diseases.

Tuscany is another Italian region that boasts a high concentration of spas, whose waters were already used in ancient times and are still popular, such as Saturnia, Roselle, Chianciano and Chiusi. In the century that has just passed, the Tuscan spas have undergone a profound transformation: from places of exclusive stay, places such as Montecatini and Chianciano have equipped themselves to accommodate a growing number of visitors.

The spas of Lazio originate from the volcanic activity that has shaped the morphology of vast areas of the Region. Bagni di Tivoli, near the capital and Fiuggi, further south, are particularly well known. The waters of Fiuggi are renowned for the treatment of kidney stones and their fame is testified by the presence of over two hundred and fifty hotels.

In southern Italy, the spas that follow the orography of the Gulf of Naples are particularly important, almost tracing an arc. It is one of the most active Italian areas from a volcanic point of view, characterised by the presence of large magmatic layers near the surface. Ischia, one of the best known in Italy and abroad, offers its radioactive waters for treatments particularly recommended for arthritic and rheumatoid diseases, obesity and metabolic imbalances.

The active spas in Italy have extraordinary climatic characteristics and are inserted in a set of natural beauties, capable of positively influencing our organic balance and contributing to the sensations of physical and mental well-being. It is therefore natural that Italy, due to its traditional abundance of thermal and mineral waters, together with the mildness of the climate and the beauty of the landscape, has become one of the most sought-after destinations for “health tourism”.