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Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Spa Heaven

Imagine pampering yourself with a Sicilian high salt energizer : a total body exfoliation followed by a gentle massage with local olive oil and Sicilian citrus fruits extracts.

Enjoy the soothing effects of warm volcanic clay followed by a dip into the natural hot springs situated inside grottos, lakes and at the slopes of a massive volcano : Sicily is a real spa heaven.

Hot springs and natural beauty treatment tradition in Sicily lies in volcanic subterranean activity, recorded from Roman times. A spa itinerary reveals an aspect of Sicily that is perhaps less known but not for this, less fascinating. The starting point is Acireale, north of Catania. Situated in the Santa Venera al Pozzo district where the Hot Springs Park is today. Sourced from volcano Etna, these amazing spas literally warmly welcome visitors providing a relaxing and rejuvenating holiday. Richard Wagner was also a Sicilian hot springs assiduous visitor.

Driving towards Messina you will reach Ali Terme spa, just after Taormina : its facilities – Marino and Granata Cassibile were even “”promoted” by Descartes during his trip to Italy (1623-1625).

The next stop along the Tyrrhenian coast is Terme Vigliatore: it relies on the Source of Venus, one of the few sulphurous waters that can be drunk normally.

Termini Imerese (Palermo) is ancient Thermae Himerensis: vestiges of the old facilities remain in the 19th century Grand Hotel delle Terme , where you can chose between several thermal treatments. (bath towels are not included, therefore bring your own if you don't want to pay an extra fee!)

But if you are in Palermo, why not indulging in a purifying Turkish bath at the Hammam Centre.

Leaving Palermo behind you, you will reach Castellamare del Golfo (Trapani) with its fine Aragonese Castle. Terme Segestane spa in the Ponte Bagni district is located near the springs the nymphs forced to flow in order to refresh Hercules. Calatafimi is just a few kilometres away: from Monte Barbaro, the Greek theatre of Segesta dominates the plain, while the hot spring facilities are near the Gorga stream in an old renovated watermill.

For a luxury treatment and total bliss head toward Mazara del Vallo, at the Kempisky Hotel Giardino di Costanza where Daniela Steiner runs her splendid spa. Try the special moonlit massage to channel the lunar energies or chose between the long list of special treatments that combine Sicilian natural produce and scientific rigour.

Going south you will arrive at Montevago (Agrigento) with its Acqua Pia hot springs surrounded by a lush park. And finally there is Sciacca along the coast, the oldest spa on the island. According to the myth, it was Daedalus who made the steam vents, hollowed out of the rock, now called San Calogero.

But the natural spa heaven par excellance is to be found all over the Sicilian island of Pantelleria.

The island offers a large variety of hot springs, as well as dry natural saunas, in the grottoes and wells scattered around the island and coast. You can reach the Benikulà grotto through a fault in the rock in the Sibà district. Water vapour at around 38°C comes out of a crack in the ground providing a true natural sauna. The sulphurous spring in Lake Specchio di Venere is very popular, while the baths in the natural basins along the coast are a must: Gadir Cove, Sataría Grotto and Niká Cove. The great thing is that all this comes for free!

Useful information
Sulphurous iodic bromine salt waters gush out at Acireale (at 22°C), at Alì Terme (at Marino at 39.5°C and at Granata Cassibile at 46.5°C), at Termini Imerese (at 43°C) and at Sciacca (at 55.4°C); alkaline at Calatafimi-Segesta (at 52°C); muddy alkaline phosphate salty at Castellamare del Golfo (at 44.1°C): therapeutic recommendations include treatment for diseases of the skin, locomotive and respiratory system. At Montevago, the magnesium calcium sulphate water (at 39°C) is recommended for diseases of the locomotive and respiratory system. At Terme Vigliatore, the water of the Source of Venus at 32.6°C is also recommended for diseases of the liver, biliary ducts and digestive system. The acid radioactive waters of Vulcano are also recommended to treat articular rheumatism and arthritis while the baths in Pantelleria have an extraordinary energising effect. All the hot spring facilities also offer other wellness and beauty cures and treatments (including cosmetic massages, kinesi and hydrokinesitherapy, fitness and anti-stress programmes), and are equipped with hot spring pools and playgrounds for children. At Acireale, the Santa Venera Hot Springs holds classical music and jazz concerts, theatre and dance shows in the summer.

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