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The Sicilian Terme

The Island of Sicily is rich with water infused with geothermal energy. Thus a thermal itinerary of Sicily is in order to discover the equally-fascinating but lesser known facets of the island. Splendid towns that boast hot springs for re-invigorating body and spirit also have heaps of art, ancient culture and exquisite cuisine to offer its curious visitors.
Given Mt. Etna’s intense subterranean life, Sicilian thermal baths have been enjoyed since Roman times, and still today, Etna is one of Europe’s few remaining active Volcanoes (it is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013). Termini Imerese, Inside the TermeIndeed, it is on the slopes of the volcano where we find the Baroque city of Acireale, and where our journey through thermal Sicily begins. In the area of Santa Venera al Pozzo lies a thermal park whose waters arrive from Etna’s sulphureous base. Already known to the Greeks, this place was highly-appreciated by the Romans, who built a bathing establishment, later frequented by Richard Wagner in the 1800s. Today the park hosts classical music and jazz concerts in summer, along with theatre and dance performances.

Moving up along the Ionian Coast, closer to the glamorous sea resort Taormina, we find two towns that tend to be sought out by those seeking thermal cures: Letojanni and Ali Terme. The waters of Ali Terme were already a destination in the 1500s, but the city’s fame only became more widespread in the 17th Century, thanks to Descartes, who visited them during his travels in Italy between 1623 and 1625. 

 

On the Tyrrhennian Coast, then, we arrive at Terme Vigliatore, whose sulphurous waters, particularly those of the Fons Veneris, are also used to drink. Historians refer to the Empress of Trebisond left the East and had her palace constructed near these springs so that she would always enjoy good health.
Termini Imerese, anciently known as Thermae Himerensis, also lies along this coast. The Phoenicians and Greeks, again, were the first to discover the area’s curative endowments, and of course the Romans were the first to build the first bathing facilities. Today, we find traces of the 19th-Century Grand Hotel delle Terme.

Between Palermo and Trapani, Castellammare del Golfo awaits with its Terme Segestane. This source, according to myth, came into being when the Nymphs wanted to restore Hercules. In reality, it is an ancient mill in the locality of Ponte Bagni. Castellammare del Golfo, with its magnificent Aragonese Castle, is struck upon one the most fascinating stretches of coast in Sicily: jsut a few miles away are the hills around Calatafimi, dominated by the captivating Greek Theatre of Segesta.

In the south, on the Coast of Agrigento stand Montevago, whose Acqua Pia terme are immersed in a lush park, and Sciacca, the most ancient source of thermal waters on the island. Legend has it that Dedalus formed the very grottoes at Acqua Pia that serve to collect the vapors arising from underground volcanic activity (beneath Monte Kronio or Monte San Calogero). Sciacca is gorgeous, with its center characterized by narrow lanes, Arab courtyards and the evocative Piazza Scandaliato, sitting right on the port and thus looking at the sea.

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If Sicily itself is a thermal oasis, its satellite islands cannot help but share similar geological properties. Pantelleria, specifically, hosts a great variety of thermal baths. Be sure to marvel at the Benikulà Grotto, on the contrada Sibà and emitting water vapor of 100.4°F from a fissure in the ground.
Another sulphureous spring is in Lake Specchio di Venere, while a must-see are the natural baths along the coast: Cala Gadir, the Sateria Grotto, and Cala Nicà.
Thermal springs are also typical on another Aeolian Isle, Vulcano: tourists flock to the Baia di Levante to relish in the regenerating mud that gurgles up from the surface.