She Did NOT Just Do That: Val D’Orcia, Italy

October 15 – 22
Central Tuscany, Italy

See this face?  It’s belongs to a young John the Baptist.  It was carved in the 13th century by a member of the  Sienese school, and it is on display in Volterra’s Pinacoteca e Museo Civico.

See this face?  It looks familiar, right?  However, it has nothing to do with saintly piety.  This face is what we refer to in the Rauch household as the dreaded “pooh face”.   And it shows up in the most unlikely places.

In Southern Tuscany, between the Val’D’Orcia, a pastoral landscape of gently undulating hills that is beautifully cultivated by olive groves and vineyards, and the evergreen forests of Mount Amiata, there lies the small town of Bagni San Fillipo.   Here, there are natural, thermal hot pools that draw their source from warm (50° C/125°F) waterfalls that tumble over mountainous white calcium deposits.  The Fosso Bianco is the most beautiful and secluded of these formations, and for centuries, pilgrims have sought out the sulfuric waters for various therapeutic reasons.

Swallows, Southern Tuscany

After completing a two-hour hike through the Val’D’Orcia, we decided to soak our sore legs in the pools at Bagni San Fillipo. Following our time in Iceland, we learned that thermal waters were always the perfect antidote to our crazed children.  A relaxing soak always ensured an early bedtime.

Of the fifteen or so words in Kendley’s vocabulary,  one is “statue” and the other is “hot pool”.

Once we arrived at the hot pools and got our suits on, we descended on a lone Italian man who was occupying the warmest pool.

We wished him a cheery ‘bongiorno’ to which he did respond. Despite his standoffishness, we warily settled into the pool alongside him, but mindfully kept whatever distance we could manage. All was copacetic until Ollie started flopping around like a stranded fish, splashing our bathing companion in the process. The man scolded him numerous times in Italian and made it perfectly clear to us that if we encroached on his space again, he would resort to violence, or calling the carabinieri, or both.  At least this was how I translated what he was saying.

In this way he continued to occupy the hottest spot of the pool for the next 90 minutes, muttering to himself the entire time, until he finally stood up and concluded his soak by massaging his private parts against calciferous rock that rose up from the pool.

At that precise moment when Ryan and I averted our eyes from our fellow bather, we happened to glance at Kendley, who, AT THAT PRECISE MOMENT was making none other than the dreaded pooh face, while standing chest-deep in the thermal pool.

Voila! Here’s how to get a hot spring all to yourself!

I am still unclear as to whom evacuated the spring first, the Italian man or myself with Kendley in my arms.

But all ended well.  After a very, very thorough clean-up, we were back to the pool, minus the disgruntled Italian.

“I wonder if we could train her to do that on cue…” Ryan mused.

I agreed. “It comes in handy some times, doesn’t it?”


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