Italy’s best kept secret: Bormio

There’s something very magical about sitting in a hot tub, at over 1300m altitude, overlooking the spring scenery of Stelvio National Park. The 40C water soothes every inch of your body while the crisp air strokes your face gently. The palette of greens, a few shy rays of sun complemented by the murmur of the hot stream, tickle your senses.

IMG_4356Nestled in Stelvio National Park, Italy’s largest national park, the town of Bormio has been historically known since Roman times for its thermal waters. Nowadays, besides its hot springs, it’s also a hot spot for winter sports and ski enthusiasts in particular. Despite its incredible scenery and adrenaline inducing slopes, Bormio is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Italy and that’s a real shame.

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Bormio_landscapeThe town rests in a glacial valley in the shadow of lush green forests. Off the mountains, Bormio has a rustic vibe with pretty cobbled streets. Running around town, don’t forget to stop on Via de Simoni 22 by “Gusto Valtellina”, to stock up on local produce such as porcini mushrooms, local wines and a great array of local cheese. Forget pizza, instead try pizzoccheri, a local pasta dish cooked with savoy cabbage, potatoes, sage and topped with local cheese. For a sweet treat you can stop by Pasticceria Pozzi on Via IV Novembre and indulge yourself in pastries or local cakes, such as the Besciola (a type of sweet bread filled with walnuts and figs).

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The cherry on top of the cake

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For a one a kind treat don’t miss Bormio’s historical baths, Bagni Vecchi. Well worth visiting Bagni Nuovi thermal complex too, whose facilities perfectly complement the former. Just 3km away from Bormio’s town centre, you’ll find these two spa resorts tucked away in the deep green forest at the bottom of Stelvio Pass.

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The old baths of Bormio have been frequented by spa-goers dating back to Roman times. The naturally hot water, that gives this place its unique character, can be enjoyed in a number of ways. Start with the age-old Roman baths and step back in a time. Discover how to Romans used to soak in the rock-carved tubs filled with thermal water straight from the spring. Step into the grotto of San Martino, a natural turkish bath carved in the mountain for more than 50 meters. The grotto, which has a humidity lever of 95% and a temperature of about 48C (118F) is divided into two sections: a sitting area made where you can enjoy the turkish bath sitting on stone benches and a narrow corridor filled with hot waist-high water. The rugged look of the cave creates an unique atmosphere as you walk into the heart of the mountain. Once you finish, find a place to relax and cool down. Step  outside into the fresh air and enjoy the panoramic pool, perched on the cliffs overlooking the Valley of Bormio. The bubble beds, and the view will remind you that “dolce far niente”.

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Despite it’s name, the new baths of Bormio were opened in 1836 and they still operate today as a modern wellness centre. The structure has numerous indoor saunas, hydromassage and relaxation areas, all filled with the scent of pine, lavender or rose. The outside area is however the showstopper: wooden cabins turned into saunas, an old sheep bath turned into a pool with underwater music, a 30C swimming pool, all nestled at the bottom of the mountains, surrounded by raw beauty. My favourite spot were the panoramic bucket-shaped tubs, where the hot thermal water and the view remind you of the healing power of nature.

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Fonte Pliniana

IMG_3691You can even go for a relaxing walk from Bagni Vecchi to Fonte Pliniana, a hot spring dedicated to Pliny the Elder, who was the first author to mention the hot springs of Bormio. A few stone paved stairs down to the path and you’re immersed in rich vegetation of pine, larch and fir which will lead your way to the artificial cave hosting Fonte Pliniana, the hot stream. Take a moment to rest and admire the surroundings and when you’re ready continue following the path until you reach Adda river and you’ll be in for a treat. Here you’ll discover La Pozza Leonardo da Vinci, a natural pool filled with thermal water.

 

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Adda river and Leonardo da Vinci natural pool seen from above

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La pozza di Leonardo da Vinci

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