Stage 41 of the Via Francigena pilgrimage is a pleasant walk surrounded by undulating fields with Montefiascone in the far distance. The walk begins by following in the footsteps of pilgrims past along a well-preserved section of the ancient cobble stone Via Cassia.
Bagnaccio Thermal baths
Towards the end of the walk are the thermal baths of Bagnaccio. The healing waters of these baths are as popular now as they were in with the Etruscans, the Romans and pilgrims of old. Today they are still a favourite place to relax and soothe the body. It is a great place to stop, rest and cool off on your way to Viterbo. And don’t forget your pilgrim stamp when you visit!
Termi dei Papi
On my first visit to Viterbo I somehow managed to stumble across the Thermal baths known as Terme dei Papi. The idea of thermal baths appealed to my imagination, so instead of staying in the city of Viterbo, I stayed near Terme dei Papi. It turn out that I had very bad blisters when I arrived and I was living in hope of a cure in the thermal waters.
It turns out that Termi dei Papi is very close to Sigeric’s sixth stopover, Bullicame. There are quite a few thermals baths in this area. Terme dei Papi is the most commercial, but this does not distract from the pleasure of bathing there. Bullicane is not at all commercial and it is free to the public. It has 4 baths and ancient Roman ruins nearby.
outside the jungle, a small stream,
Whose redness still appalled me.
Which of the Bullicame brook comes out
that then the sinners leave,
so through the sand it sank that one.
His bottom and both
sides were stone, and margins from
(Dante, Inferno – canto XIV, vv. 76-84)
Dante made a special mention of Bullicame in the Divine comedy. It is thought that the ‘sinners’ are pilgrims walking to Rome. But, commentators say that the ‘sinners’ were most likely ‘combers’, labourers who soaked hemp to make the pure white linen Viterbo was famous for. The baths were a gathering place for people from many walks of life, including an area for prostitutes.
What I find most interesting after bathing in the waters of Terme dei Papi is that the water does does have a reddish appearance due its sulfurous subterranean volcanic waters. The water is also filled with algae adding to its reddish appearance. It is also a very pleasant warm temperature which is quite soothing.
All in all it is quite understandable why this was a popular place for Sigeric to have stopped, rested and bathed in the waters on his way home to Canterbury. And it may come as a surprise that Viterbo was not where Sigeric stopped for the night. It was Sce Valentine, today called Bullicame.