Terme dei Papi, Vietrbo, ItalyThe thermal waters found north of Rome, at the Terme dei Papi (The Thermal Baths of the Popes) were famous well before Papal times. These thermal waters were well known to the Etruscans, well before the birth of Rome.

In the 3rd Century B.C., the Roman army, led by Console Quinto Fabio Rulliano, conquered and destroyed the Etruscan town of Surrena – modern-day Viterbo.

The Roman troops (as they were apt to do when they conquered new territories) quickly discovered the baths, which had been used by the Etruscans, and they greatly expanded the site. Important temples were built by the site that became part of the Ancient Roman Empire.

During medieval times, the thermal waters were visited by the Popes. One of the first to visit here to take advantage of the spa’s curative powers was Pope Gregorio IX in 1235. In 1404, Pope Bonifacio was a frequent visitor, visiting the waters to ease his suffering for a painful bone disease.

In 1450, Pope Niccolò V had a splendid palace constructed to house those who arrived to take cure at the spa.

Later in the 15th century, Pope Pio II would oversee modernization efforts of these thermal baths.

Today, harried Romans and Italian and foreign tourists replace the Ancient Roman army and the Popes in enjoying these thermal baths.

In addition to the pool, the complex has full spa and medical facilities. The famous grotto (pictured at right) is a popular feature of Terme dei Papi, and this Turkish-bath-like room was said to have been popular since medieval times.

If a day’s not long enough for you, you can turn it into a weekend or a longer stay. The attached Hotel Niccolò V – named after the 15th century pope, welcomes spa visitors. The Etruscans, Ancient Romans and Popes certainly knew a good thing when they saw it. Next time you’re looking for a day trip from Rome, be sure to visit Terme dei Papi.

Terme dei Papi, Viterbo, Italy