Saturnia, Italy, a small city in Tuscany, is believed to be the oldest settlement on the Italian Peninsula with ruins and artifacts in the town dating all the way back to the 20th century B.C. Saturnia is also home to an amazing set of thermal baths and waterfalls that are believed to have been in use by local residents and travelers since ancient times.

Legend has it that the town was founded in honor of the god Saturn, who was banished to earth for his misdeeds. He took refuge on a massive boulder of travertine located between the Albegna River and Stellata stream, where the hilltop town has been located since prehistory.

It was there a population of Pelasgians (a pre-Hellenic people of unknown origin) settled to enjoy the falls and thermal baths on a permanent basis. Archaeological evidence suggests the town has been continuously inhabited since at least 8,000 B.C., a fact that is difficult to pinpoint because it predates written history.

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However long it’s been there, the thermal baths and elegant falls at Saturnia were a popular destination for the ancients, especially during the Roman Empire when public bathing was an important part of daily life. The baths fell into disuse during the Middle Ages but were rediscovered and re-established by the Medici family in the early Renaissance. Saturnia has since become an iconic symbol of the luxurious Tuscan lifestyle.

Each year, tens of thousands of Italians and tourists visit the site and luxuriate in the sulfur-infused water, which flows year round at a steady 99.5 degrees F. The terraced pools offer sweeping views of the surrounding landscape and are believed to be among the early inspirations for vanishing-edge designs.

Eric Herman is Senior Editor of AQUA Magazine.