When I read there was a Roman tub in the middle of the square I was intrigued. I was planning my itinerary for the day in southern Tuscany where I already had an early morning appointment at the vineyard Fattoria del Cerro and an evening tour of Montalcino. This meant that I had an hour or two to explore a little on my own. It was only a one line description of this Tuscan hillside town but it captured my imagination and I was hooked. Bagno Vignoni here I come. I had pictured a large marble monument in an ornate Victorian bathtub shape, perhaps with a little garden surrounding it and lots of carved Roman letters commemorating yet another Roman triumph. I knew this area was particularly well known for Etruscan and Roman ruins so I had earmarked this tiny little town located between Montepulciano and Montalcino as a must see.
I am the type of tourist that enjoys inserting themselves into the scenery, learn a little of the language, shop with the “natives” and stumble upon the unique and truly authentic corners of the landscape. When I can, I always arrange to stay with family or friends, looking to them for guidance and fun pieces of information. However, my first time traveling abroad in Tuscany Italy tested me just a bit. I had, as the Italians would say, no “punto di appoggio” so I had to search out my own place. Of course, for many, the idea of being on your own in a strange country can be a little daunting, but if you have a trusted adviser then finding a place to hang your coat and unload your suitcase can be a lot less worrying. When looking to put down some roots, I search out something that can give me a 360° tour of the area. I am curious so, I want to see lots of photos, detailed descriptions of the house and even videos like the one I found at Tenuta di Gracciano, a villa rental in southern Tuscany.
I grabbed my new Italian leather jacket and started off on my adventure and the first stop was divine! I said good bye to the lovely person who showed me around the vinyard and mentioned that I was headed to visit Bagno Vignoni. They were enthusiastic and mentioned the quaint little restaurants and charming town scenery. Then they asked if I had brought my bathing suit. I felt encouraged by their comments and baffled by the bathing suit remark. So I just laughed with them and climbed back into my car. Onward I went to the town I had found in a little guide book left for me at the Tuscan villa rental. I arrived at the foot of the hill, following the signs to the parking area. The scenery was beautiful, on one side rolling fields of grain and in front of me was a tree covered hill with Bagno Vignoni on top. I gathered my camera, intent on capturing the little alley ways with its stone buildings – and of course a photo of the Roman tub. The town is small – in fact tiny describes it more appropriately. And the guide was right, very quaint and very picturesque. I enjoyed walking around the near deserted streets, read the information on the thermal springs that abound in the area and bought a postcard or two. But the tub? I thought a monument this important would have sequestered a large place of prominence…search and search and search, but to no avail.
Then it dawned on me. The same consideration I gave to my guide for his English skills – I should have given to the guide book as well! All the streets in Bagno Vignoni face a large man made pool … translated TUB! This was once a Roman spa (and still is a lovely spa today! Which is why he asked if I had brought my bathing suit!) Not that you can go swimming in this unique landmark, but there are several areas nearby. You can admire this large pool on all four sides and in the one corner you can actually see the water bubbling to the surface.
It still produces a sincere smile when I think about my expectations on that trip of seeing a great white marble monument, how I walked around and around looking for this statue … only to have it sitting under my nose the whole time. And Bagno Vignoni is definitely one of the places I encourage all my visiting friends to visit and explore . . . without telling them about the pool, I let them think its really a tub. All said and done this is just one of these special moments that Tuscany has given me in all my travels. A surprise out of a surprise and I have to say this probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been living my dream in one of those beautifully restored Tuscan villas.