About Cascate del Mulino
Cascate del Mulino (di Saturnia) could very well be Italy’s most famous hot springs waterfall as it had blown up on the socials in the latter half of the decade of the 2010s when apps like Instagram really took off.
In fact, we actually could have visited this waterfall when we first came to Italy in 2013, but we weren’t aware of it despite spending three days in the heart of Tuscany, and it wasn’t until after that trip when it came across Julie’s feed on the socials.
Fast forward another 10 years, and as you can see from this write-up, we have finally made our visit.
While we’re by no means trailblazers when it comes to this popular hot spring cascades, there are definitely things we’d like to share about our experiences, which we’ll dive right into below.
What is the Cascate del Mulino?
As you might have guessed from the photos above, the Cascate del Mulino (Waterfalls of the Mill) is the formal name of this wide multi-terraced waterfall that also doubles as hot springs that you can soak in.
Because this waterfall is located near the village of Saturnia, it’s also known as the Saturnia Waterfall.
I’ve also seen this waterfall historically referred to as the Cascate del Gorello (or Gorello Waterfalls) because it is where the Gorello Stream descends from Terme di Saturnia to the creek called Torrente Stellata.
This waterfall is said to drop around 10-15m in cumulative height over a tall and narrow upper drop before spreading out and tumbling over a series of travertine terraces.
It’s these terraces caused by the rich mineral content of the water that includes sulfur as well as carbon and sulfates that allow the limestone-like formations to form “dams” that hold up the geothermally-heated waters into small pools.
And it’s these pools that allow people to essentially sit and soak in them, which is the main appeal of the majority of visitors to the Cascate del Mulino.
Speaking of the appeal of the waterfall as a hot springs, it’s said that the Roman god Saturnus created the hot springs with a thunderbolt because the deity was tired of man constantly fighting wars with each other.
The thinking was to make these hot springs to pacify the people, and to this day, it has certainly accomplished that!
What is Cascate del Mulino like?
Visiting the Cascate del Mulino was actually quite straightforward and easy for us, and it only involved a short 400-500m roadside walk from the car park (see directions below).
Once at the waterfall, we could pretty much wade right into the terraced pools and start enjoying the falls as did dozens of other people had already done during our Saturday visit in November 2023.
Of course, we were also into documenting the experience in addition to just soaking, and that meant going to the bottom of the waterfalls across the Torrenta Stellata.
A DiCAPac protecting an iPhone or a GoPro housed in a waterproof casing probably provides the most piece of mind in terms of documenting the experience while climbing directly down the waterfalls.
However, since I was carrying a Sony Mirrorless camera, I had to find a less riskier way to experience the falls from its bottom.
So we found that by keeping to the right as we faced the Torrenta Stellata, we could cling to a wet ledge (somewhat hidden by the overgrowth) and then descend a manageable scramble down to the murky waters of the Torrenta Stellata itself.
Crossing the creek was about ankle deep though it could be deeper if we stepped into parts where we couldn’t see the bottom.
Only after crossing the creek were we finally able to get right in front of the falls and take most of the photos that you see on this page.
As for bathing in the pools, we found that the waters were actually on the lukewarm to somewhat warm side during our late November visit.
As long as we were in the water (many people, us included bathed directly in the waterfalls themselves), it felt somewhat comfortable.
However, as soon as our bodies weren’t submerged in the water, it felt cold pretty quickly.
Thus, the vast majority of people actually spent most of their time bathing closer to the mill and the upper waterfall, where the water was noticeably warmer than at the bottom.
Is it crowded? And what about the red worms?
The short answer to whether the place was crowded was that yes, it does get quite busy here unless you show up before the rush early in the morning (say before 8am or something).
We showed up on a Saturday so there were lots of Italian weekenders enjoying this place with lawn chairs, boom boxes, etc. pretty much making for a rather festive atmosphere.
In fact, it seemed like as the day wore on, the busier this place became (even in the late afternoon towards sunset).
In addition to Italian visitors, there were also quite a few foreign visitors like ourselves who don’t speak Italian so that gives you a pretty good idea of this place’s popularity.
As for the red worms, yes they reside in the waters of the Gorello Stream, but as far as I know, they’re harmless larvae that are not parasitic.
They’re tiny and only visible if you look at where the water’s calm enough to notice them, but I admit that both Julie and Tahia did have a bit of that ick factor when they saw them.
Other than that, most of the people here didn’t mind the worms and soaked to their hearts content.
Most people probably spent between 1-2 hours bathing or just frolicking in the Cascate del Mulino, and quite a few of these people spent another hour eating at the cafe bar nearby.
How much does it cost to visit Cascate del Mulino?
Le Cascate del Mulino is free to visit and soak in as of our November 2023 visit.
However, getting here pretty much requires self-driving, which carries costs of their own such as tolls, fuel, rental car expenses, etc.
Moreover, Saturnia is a bit out-of-the-way towards the far southern part of Tuscany (almost near its regional border with Lazio, which is the region that Rome is the capital of).
We actually spent about 3 hours to drive from Florence to Saturnia, but it could also be 2 hours south of Siena or about 3 hours northwest of Rome (traffic permitting).
On top of transport costs, we also had to pay for parking at 2.50 euros per hour (we ended up paying 5 euros).
We also paid another 5 euros (plus another 5 euro deposit and passport as collateral) to rent a locker so most of our valuables wouldn’t be left unattended (except phone and camera).
Is Cascate del Mulino Natural or Man-Made?
The answer to this question is basically both.
It’s true that these waterfalls were naturally formed though the presence of the namesake mill building seems to undermine that notion.
However, there have been man-modifications made to both enhance the water temperature near its top as well as walls built further downstream to try to mitigate future damages from flash flooding.
In fact, there was a flood that occurred in October 2014 that caused a lot of damage to this waterfall, and it wasn’t until 6 months later that a man-made supporting wall was built out of the travertine to allow new terraces and pools to form.
In the grand scheme of things, when you consider waterfalls like the Cascata delle Marmore in Umbria, Cascate del Liri, or the Bagno Vignoni Waterfall in Toscana, man-made creations or man-modifications of waterfalls are nothing new in Italy.
Is there another way to see the Cascate del Mulino?
There is a belvedere or overlook to the south of the Cascate del Mulino along the Strada Provinciale 10 (SP10; see directions below).
At this lookout, there is a road shoulder on the westbound side of the road with room for a handful of cars, where you can go to a fenced lookout peering at the Cascate del Mulino and its namesake mill.
By the way, the word cascate (waterfalls) is actually plural for cascata (waterfall), and I suspect someone imagined that all the various terraces were multiple waterfalls as opposed to a singular entity.
That said, at the belvedere, you can pretty much see all of these waterfalls in one go, which are actually dwarfed by the surrounding Tuscan landscape of rolling hills that many of us tend to associate with Tuscany.
Anyways, this lookout is quite easy to miss.
In fact, it wasn’t until we were a little lost following Google Maps as we were leaving to get to Bagno Vignoni did we notice some commotion around this somewhat unsigned lookout that compelled us to stop.
Cascate del Mulino reside near the town of Saturnia in the Grosseto Province within the Tuscany Region of Italy. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit the Tuscany Tourism Board website.
The Cascate del Mulino sits in the far southwestern end of the region of Tuscany quite close to the border with the Lazio Region (of which Rome is the capital of).
Since we drove from the rental car center near the Florence Airport (also called Amerigo Vespucci Airport), we’ll describe this driving route.
We’ll also describe the rural route we took to reach Bagno Vignoni, which was where we stayed, which itself was near Tuscan town of San Quirico d’Orcia.
The Driving Route from the Rental Car Center by the Florence Airport
So from the Florence Airport, we pretty much used GoogleMaps to follow some local roads about 6km to reach the A1 expressway (autostrada).
Once on the A1, which is a toll expressway, we then followed it for just under 10km to its junction with the SR2 (strada regionale or regional road) in the general direction of Siena.
Then, we followed this road for roughly 55km before veering onto the SS674 to go around Siena and finally intersect with the SS223 (strada statale or state road) roughly 10km later.
We then followed the SS223 for another 52km towards Grosseto before leaving the state road and following the provincial road or strada provinciale (SP159) for another 55km towards Montemerano.
From there, we then followed the SP10 towards Saturnia, where we followed this road for roughly 4km to a signed junction (note at this point, the Cascate del Mulino is on the left, but that small road is a ZTL – i.e. it’s only for authorized vehicles).
Turning right at this junction, we then drove the final 300m or so to a car park on the left, which is the official car park for the Cascate del Mulino.
Overall, this drive took us around 3 hours, which gives you an idea of how out-of-the-way it is.
The Driving Route between San Quirico d’Orcia and Saturnia
Now assuming you’re already staying in Tuscany and wish to visit the Cascate del Mulino di Saturnia, then the driving will be significantly shorter, but not necessarily taking that much less time due to the twistiness of the Tuscan rural roads.
So starting from San Quirico d’Orcia, we’d drive southeast on SR2 for roughly 6km to the provincial road SP323 towards Castiglione d’Orcia.
Then, we’d follow this road for about 40km to its junction with the SP10, and then we’d follow the SP10 for the final 20km to the car park for the Cascate del Mulino.
Overall, this drive would take about 90 minutes (it took us nearly 2 hours after stopping for about a half-hour or so at the belvedere for the Cascate del Mulino).
The Belvedere for Cascate del Mulino
From the car park for the Cascate del Mulino, we’d drive south on the SP10 for about 1.5km, where there are parallel parking pullouts before the actual lookout itself.
It’s real easy to miss as it sits near a bend in the provincial road, and just about all of the pullouts are on the west- and southbound side of the SP10.
If you happen to be going in the opposite direction, then there might be an informal pullout (albeit unsanctioned) further east of the belvedere.
Otherwise, you’d have to find a way to safely make a U-turn to take one of the parallel parking spots adjacent to the belvedere.
For context, Saturnia is about 56km (over an hour drive) southeast of Grosseto, about 81km (over 90 minutes drive) south of San Quirico d’Orcia, 85km (about 2 hours drive) south of Montepulciano, 111km (over 2 hours drive) south of Siena, 154km (over 2.5 hours drive depending on traffic) northwest of Rome, and 184km (about 3 hours drive) south of Florence.
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