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Pamper yourself this Christmas!

by Dario Morgante last modified 2008-06-20 15:10

When in Rome do as the (Ancient) Romans did - spoil yourself in one of Italy's many thermal baths

Isola di Ischia Like to do something different this Christmas or New Year? We've got just the answer for you. Why don't you pamper yourself over the festive season with a break in one of Italy's many thermal baths? Join us in our journey through the intriguing world of spas - you may find just the place for you.

We can't talk about thermal baths without talking about the Ancient Romans, who adopted the Greek tradition of bathing and made it their own. Roman baths were, for the most part, free or extremely cheap and opened from noon until dusk, with some baths opening by torchlight in the evening. Roman baths were seen as both a social and a sports-cum-beauty centre. The baths were equivalent to modern gyms and underlined the Roman motto "mens sana in corpore sano" (A healthy mind in a healthy body). Most bathing establishments used the same general plan: an exercise area, a steam room, a hot room and a cold room as well as facilities for massaging, rubbing, oiling and anointing the body plus a room where both men and women had their excess body hair removed.Nowadays thermal baths are built around an existing hot spring (in Roman times the water was channelled and brought great distances by aqueducts). They offer a wide array of services and treatments though they do tend to be costly. Allow yourself to be pampered like the Ancient Roman senators as you wallow in a mud bath or forget time in a relaxing massage.

Staying at home this Christmas? You can always treat yourselves to a sauna in one of your local swimming pools or gyms. Just close your eyes and dream of Ancient Rome. . .There's a huge choice of thermal baths in Italy, each one with its own special offer for the Christmas period. Classics include Montecatini Terme, l’Isola di Ischia with its magnificent sea views and its lush vegetation. Not to forget Chianciano Terme (a small but popular resort in Tuscany), Abano and the picturesque Terme dei Papi in Viterbo. No article on Italy's thermal baths would be complete without mentioning Bagno Vignoni in Tuscany which still uses the original Mediaeval structure and boasts a big bath dating from the 13th Century with a natural spring with water reaching the surface at an impressive 52°C. Bagni Vignoni has another claim to fame as the location for Nikita Michalkov's masterpiece "Nostalghia".

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