Italy is known for having marvelous natural hot springs. A few weeks ago we traveled to the very tip of Lake Garda in search for a natural hot spring. Before going, we did a minimal amount of research since we read about many springs in the area.
We arrived in a town called Sirmione a little after noon on a Saturday. The town is a walled city located on a peninsula at the southern most edge of Lake Garda. Cars are not allowed inside the city walls in an effort to preserve the cobblestone streets. Entrance to the city was via a drawbridge – I felt as if we were stepping back in time once we crossed the short bridge. Bags filled with towels and swimsuits in tow, we wandered the streets looking for any evidence or sign of a hot spring. After questioning a few locals and walking to the other end of the small city, we exited the walled-off town from the opposite side we entered and ran into a sign that read, “Thermal Spa Terme di Sirmione.” We made it! Past the sign and beyond a small, beautiful flower garden was an entrance to the welcome building for the Thermal Spa.
We thought it was a bit odd that the natural hot spring adorned such an extravagant entrance. We could see water in the distance resembling two or three large pools with sun bathing chairs decked around each pool. Still unknowingly, we entered the building and immediately ran into cashiers. To visit the Thermal Spa, cost was dependent on age, if you needed a towel, and length of stay. This came as a surprise as every hot spring we read about was free of cost. Everyone that visited the Thermal Spa was also given a swimming cap upon paying. After paying the admittance fee, we were separated into our respective locker rooms. The locker rooms were staffed with someone to hang up your clothes and stocked with a plentiful amount of toiletry items. After changing in to our swimsuits we set out down a long hallway leading to the outdoor pool areas. When we reached the end of the hallway we were in shock due to the sight and ignorance of visiting such a place. We were thinking – Where to start?!
To the right was a separate building with three different types of steam rooms and saunas. Straight in front of us were a few large swimming pools with small hot-tub-like pools around the edge of the premises. A snack bar was behind the main pool serving sandwiches and coffee. In the distance, beyond the pool area was a fantastic view of Lake Garda. The view was astonishing and worth every penny we paid to enter.
Almost every person was also wearing their blue and white striped swimming cap we received when entering. We scouted out a couple of chairs to place our shoes and towels on and then made way to the main pool. I believe I only got my big toe in the water before a lifeguard came running over to us with two blue and white swimming caps. Supposedly these things were mandatory. After noticing the only people not wearing them were bald, we realized our mistake. We placed the swimming caps on and stepped into the first pool. The water was luke warm and smelled of sulphur.
After turning into a prune from the water, we discovered another section which was called the Relaxation Area. This area including a few small sitting rooms to choose from including a room with chairs facing the lake, a starry walled room, and a room with relaxing, instrument-only music. Although this was not the natural hot spring we were expecting, it was a pleasant experience. I do not think we will be returning but rather will be in search for the natural hot springs, which are free admittance.
We decidedly ran out of things to do at the Thermal Spa and made our way back to the locker rooms, out of the Thermal Spa grounds, across the small, walled city, and back to the car. Spas such as these are common in the surrounding area of Sirmione due to an active hot spring near the city called Boiola. Many tourists flock to the spas for the therapeutic benefits of the mineral water. It certainly was a different experience filled with new adventures.