Elephant Sighting in the Grotto: Visit to a Tuscan Spa

Visit to a Tuscan Spa
Visit to a Tuscan Spa

I’m in an underground grotto, enjoying a mineral steam bath in a posh Italian spa in Tuscany, wondering if the pot-bellied European with legs sprawled open in a chair across from me realizes I can see that he isn’t wearing underwear.

I wipe sweat from my forehead and squirm with uneasiness. A European woman would most likely be quite comfortable in this situation, but I’m American. My puritan heritage makes me avert my eyes in embarrassment from underneath the man’s short white spa gown.

Water is drip, drip, dripping from beige and orange stalactites hanging from the natural ceiling, while stalagmites thrust up from the ground of the grotto, suggestive symbols all, and I start to giggle.

The half-naked man glances indifferently in my direction, stirred out of his own thoughts by my laughter, before leaning back farther in his chair, legs opening wider, to rest his head against the rock wall.

I lean on an elbow, covering my face with one hand. My cheeks are burning. I glance through my fingers at the people seated in plastic chairs around me. Men and women alike seem completely unconcerned with this public peep show, completely absorbed in soaking up the relaxing benefits of visiting a spa with a thermal spring.

The quiet is as thick as the humid air, and I feel laughter growing inside of me, flowering to the surface in this hothouse setting, nurtured by my own sense of humor, spurred on by an absurd sense of American modesty.

Come to think of it, Italy is shaped rather suggestively. This thought makes me snort like a sniggering schoolgirl, and an elderly lady with short, silver hair shoots me a disapproving look.

I begin to shake in my chair like a crazy woman: nervous mirth spilling out in small gasps as I try to hold it in. She points a bony finger at a sign above us: “Silence!” it says in four different languages. I can see her thoughts flashing through coal black eyes deep-set in olive skin: Vulgar American!

Feeling duly reprimanded, I forget myself completely and look forward, across to the man in the chair. The sight is now even more graphic.

“Whoa!” I say aloud in shock, at first unaware that an audible word has actually escaped my lips. I have reflexively thrown my hand up like a shield against the offensive sight, like a cop stopping traffic, and everyone in the grotto suddenly looks at me until—despite the white cotton underclothes I know I have on—I am feeling naked and exposed.

The man sits upright and glares at me, shifting in his seat and mercifully crossing his legs. It occurs to me then that my inadvertent pointing might be construed as offensive, and I drop my hand quickly to my lap. Since I can’t think of a tactful way to explain why our cultural differences strike me funny, I consider asking him out for a drink of Chianti to apologize.

Fortunately the heat hasn’t completely fogged my head. I look at my watch uncomfortably, and I’m relieved to see it is time for me to go to my next spa treatment. I quickly stand and sheepishly nod to the man and the old lady.

“Grazie,” I say, fumbling with the flip-flops I’m slipping onto my feet. I make a quick retreat, mumbling under my breath. “I can’t wait to see the Roman baths.”

The rolling hills of Tuscany are filled with unique spas to visit.


Grotta Giusti Terme & Hotel

Via Grotta Giusti, 1411

51015 Monsummano Terme

Tuscany, Italy

Telephone: +39 0572 90771

Rates: Vary with treatment.

Lodging: $100+ USD/night.

Website: www.grottagiustispa.com

Email: info@grottagiustispa.com

Review: Offers excellent accommodations housed in 19th century villa in addition to full service spa. Luxurious suites with balconies overlook sprawling front grounds. Golf, tennis and pool available to hotel guests. “La Veranda is an nice restaurant on site. Day spa revolves around amazing underground grotto first discovered in 1849. American actress Kirstie Alley has spent time here. Open year round.

Terme di Saturnia

58050 Saturnia (Grossetto)

Tuscany, Italy

Telephone: +39 0564 600800

Rates: Vary with treatment.

Lodging: $100+ USD/night.

Website: www.termedisaturnia.it

Email: info@termedisaturnia.it

Review: One of the most popular luxury spas in Tuscany with young Italians. Nestled in the hills of Maremma. Full service spa revolves around outdoor thermal pool, which stays at a constant temp of 98.6 F. Programs custom designed for guests. Huge rooms. Resort amenities. Dieticians on staff prepare delicious Tuscan meals for clients that enhance a healthy experience. Open year round.

Terme Di Montepulciano

Villa della Terme, 46

Montepulciano (Siena)

Tuscany, Italy

Telephone: +39 0578 7911

Rates: Vary with treatment.

Lodging: Not available.

Website: www.termemontepulciano.it

Email: info@termemontepulciano.it

Review: The Terme Di Montepulciano is a typical Italian spa. It focuses on healthcare, and some of the facilities look and feel like a hospital. Book a massage in the wellness center for a relaxing experience after a walk through the beautiful, rolling streets of Montepulciano. Nearby Ristorante La Grotta Montepulciano, across the street from the Tempio di San Biagio, the city’s most famous church, offers an excellent Tuscan meal. Spa closed in winter.