The Romans first discovered the thermal springs of Bormio, Italy, over 2,000 years ago and created baths around them. Over the centuries, their popularity was such that even Leonardo Da Vinci came to soak in the hot waters. Today the Old Baths of Bormio (the Bagni Vecchi) are built on the foundations of those ancient baths and continue to attract visitors who, like the Romans, are anxious to sink their tired bodies into the hot, soothing waters, bubbling from the depths of the earth.
Bormio, a minuscule mountain town in the northern Valtellina Valley northeast of Milan, has much to offer. In spring, summer and autumn, the town, which sits on the edge of Stelvio National Park, attracts hikers and climbers. In winter, world-class skiers come to test their skills on the slopes outside town.
The Roman spa is located in the Bagni Vecchi Hotel. Although you don’t have to stay here to use the facilities (day passes are issued after 10 a.m.), doing so gives you several hours of almost solitary access. After checking in and being issued your white terry-cloth robe and flip flops, head to the San Martino tunnel, a 65-foot long grotto where hot water flows through a tunnel. When you have finished soaking, a quick dunk in the fridigarium will not only cool you down, it will numb your limbs and take your breath away.
Warm up again in the Turkish steam room with its aromatic vapors before stepping into a large mud bath. Sink into the piles of fresh mud, squeezing it through your toes. Sit down, collect a handful of the viscous clay and rub it all over your body. Then, head to the dry heat sauna where the mud is baked on. Follow up with a hot shower to remove the mudpack, leaving your skin feeling silky and smooth.
There are other types of saunas (both dry and wet heat), massage treatments, steam rooms and whirlpools. In one room, soothing melodies that are only audible if you are underwater are piped through the pool. Next door, three six-foot high waterfalls pummel shoulders and backs of those sitting on the benches beneath.
Finally, visit the outdoor pool where steam rises from the 100-degree water. Hot water pours out of a dozen wooden spouts, warming your head in the cold mountain air. It is especially invigorating in winter when snow covers the peaks above you.
Perched on the mountainside, the Albergo Bagni Vecchi has 36 rooms, each uniquely decorated. Some rooms overlook the valley while others offer spectacular mountain views. Little touches — an exotic tea left on your bed as an evening treat or fresh apples — and the friendly, efficient staff, make the experience truly unique.
The romantic hotel restaurant, the Antica Osteria Belvedere is decorated in dark wood and soft lighting with spectacular views over the mountains. Traditional Alpine cuisine, including the famous Pizzocheri (buckwheat noodles) accompanied by a glass of the local ruby-red Nebbiolo wine, ensure that you will sleep soundly.
IF YOU GO
Bormio is about 120 miles (approximately a three hour drive) northeast of Milan and directly north of Brescia, Italy near the Swiss border.
The Bagni Vecchi di Bormio are located on Strada Statale dello Stelvio, Localita Bagni Vecchi; (Bormio) Valdidentro; (www.bagnidibormio.it). Telephone: +39 0341-910131.