Sasseto Forest, Lazio
Forgive my long absence from my blog, but for me the start of autumn signals the time to pause, reconnect with myself and there’s no better way of doing this than immerse myself in nature or gaze at a beautiful seascape. This time I bring you some very special spots that I bet you have never heard of and yet you need to experience on your travels to Italy.
All lovers of Italy have been wowed at some point by a beautiful vista and captivating landscape, but I wonder how many of you have come across these hidden natural wonders and next time it’s well worth making a detour to experience them in all their glory!
1. Sasseto forest in Acquapendente, Lazio
In the town of Acquapendente in the province of Viterbo, the northern part of Lazio, there is a very special forest, also known as ‘the enchanted forest’ or ‘forest of the fairies’ and it’s indeed a very special place to immerse yourself in nature’s beauty. The dense and tangled vegetation, crossed by elegant paths makes it look like a mystical place where time stands still and nature has taken over.
Owner of the forest was the marquis Cahen, who turned it into a kind of garden constructing paths that crossed its length and breadth. At his death, he was buried here but the wood was abandoned. You will see old trees with trunks so impressive, so gnarled and twisted which look like witches immobilized by some remote spell. The property includes the castle of Torre Alfina which was acquired privately but in recent times it was finally reopened to the public. But without a doubt, it’s the forest that remains the jewel in which to explore and rediscover your child-like sense of wonder!
2. Bagni di San Filippo, Val d’Orcia, Tuscany
You might not know that one of the most unexpected wonders of Tuscany, aside from the picture perfect countryside, are the multitude of freely accessible natural hot springs. Day spas and thermal baths can indeed be found all over the world, but when you think about taking a hot bath in the wilderness, I would guess that Iceland is the first country that comes to mind. And yet in Tuscany you would find the natural pools near Saturnia and the hot springs in Petriolo, which are both well known by the Italians.
But if you like to take your bath more privately and away from the weekend’s crowds, then move on to the picturesque Val d’Orcia in southern Tuscany and explore the Fosso Bianco hot springs near Bagni di San Filippo. The waters here were known by the Romans, became famous in the Middle Ages and treated famous people like Lorenzo il Magnifico and other princes of the Medici family. San Filippo is characterized by suggestive calcareous sediments made by the hot sulphurous water. You can choose to bathe between a pool carved in rock or you can cross a small bridge and take a mud bath in the open air!
3. Frasassi Caves, Ancona, Le Marche
When you are next visiting the beautiful region of Le Marche, don’t miss the stunning Frasassi Caves (Grotte di Frasassi) in Genga. The caves extend for 35 km and they are the largest underground cave system in Europe. I remember first visiting them with my parents as a child and being in total awe of those striking rock formations and getting lost in a maze of magnificent rooms carved by nature. The one above ‘the Hall of Candles’ is my absolute favourite!
4. San Nicola Arcella, Calabria
San Nicola Arcella, located in the Gulf of Policastro, is a small Calabrian town in the Riviera of the Cedars. In recent years it has become a valued and popular beach town located on a cliff 110 metres above sea level at the foot of which is a bay enclosed by a rocky arm that gives it the shape of a natural harbour.
The town is well known for its extraordinary natural arch, Arco Magno, that was created in the hard rock probably carved by the sea, thus opening the way to a small beach which is like paradise. Its seaside location therefore provides a natural setting of incomparable beauty and I challenge you to find a more romantic and breathtaking spot in the whole of Italy!