History of Bagno Vignoni
Onaiades who live in these hot vapours, freeing the perennial fire among the waves, restoring with your eternal flow the suffering ones free of odious death, I salute you, and you provide copious waters.
Flow charmingly, o good springs, and with your flow bring health to the infirm and a very gentle bath to the healthy. Both will be grateful to you. (Lattanzio Tolomeo Senese). This is a translation of the 16th –century inscription engraved in ancient Greek and located in the open gallery of St. Catherine at Bagno Vignoni.
The hot-springs resort was already well-known during the Etruscan epoch. To arrive in the direction of their acess to the sea, the Etruscan travelled the Via Rosellana, which probably also reached this zone.
Active and little disposed to rest, the Etruscans disregarded the benefits deriving from the use of hot-spring waters. It was with the Romans, however, that Bagno Vignoni experienced a prosperous period of frequentation. During the barbarian invasions, both the spa activity and visits to the town were interrupted. It was the travellers going either to or from Rome along the Via Francigena who began to stop over once more in Bagno Vignoni to take advantage of the hot-spring water. Pilgrims, emperors, cardinals, people of all rank and file, of the most disparate social extraction and origin, stopped off in the town.
Thus, such illustrious personages as St. Catherine of Siena and Lorenzo il Magnifico found improvement to their health by taking the waters there. Palazzo Piccolomini, built at the behest of Pope Pius II, faces onto the flooded square occupied by the pool of the springs.
The rectangular-shape pool, 49 metres long and 24 metres wide, occupies the village's entire square. On the shorter side, it is covered by the open gallery of St. Catherine, in commemoration of the Saint's visit. Arriving in this locality also causes other effects, effects of suggestion due to the vapours that rise from the pool, which are considerably heightened during the winter period.
A rarefied atmosphere welcomes us where the white of the travertine dazzle us. An almost unreal atmosphere greets us if we arrive at sunset; it is even more fascinating when the sun is replaced by the moon, which reflects on the waters of pool and seems to watch over the town and its resident magic.
Bagno Vignoni is also remembered because of the Republic of Siena's keen desire to conquer it. At first, we are at a loss as to the motive, but we then discover the other treasure: on the cliffs that slope slowly down towards the Orcia river, there are four medieval windmills.
Commissioned by feudal families, perhaps already the Tignosy family, lord of Tentennano, they gave rise to the building of mills with a horizontal wheel, in part underground, which built with great skill and mastery were characterised by their use of hot-springs water to move the blades and, therefore, theoretically also the possibility of grinding for 365 days a year withaut having to observe the torrential regime of the Orcia river.
A dense network of streams enabled the water to flow from the square to the two large collection pools. Recently restored, the mills have maintained their charm intact.