Salus per Aquam: the salutary effects of spas in the ancient Roman world
❝The warm thermal waters of the Euganean Hills have been considered salutary and therapeutic since ancient times. The sumptuous vestiges of the Roman thermal complex of Montegrotto is proof of this, with its conveyance canals and swimming pools of great architectonic value. We must add to this, the rituals that were widespread amongst the early peoples of Veneto (probably linked to the pre-Roman water cult of the god Aponus). ❞
Of volcanic origin, the Euganean Hills are characterized by an abundance of springs on their slopes, from which come the warm and beneficial waters used in thermal establishments. Use of local founts for health reasons is well documented since Roman times and the thermal complex of Montegrotto is direct evidence of this, found in various points of the inhabited centre. At the Hotel Terme Neroniane, below the restaurant theatre are the vestiges of a thermal establishment dating to between the end of the first century B.C. and the second century A.D. Located in a public area accessible to visitors, it is composed of a wide rectangular central area with an apse, where the original coverings of the walls and floors are visible. At the sides of the principal room there are other spaces, crossed by three important ducts for the circulation of water, originating from a nearby thermal spring. The excellent quality of the materials used and general characteristics of the building are proof that this was a prestigious place, frequented by the wealthy.
In a public area nearby, the remains of a sumptuous first century A.D. villa are visible, and here too there is a thermal complex of Roman origin which was reused during the medieval period. Last but not least, the archaeological area between Viale Stazione and Via degli Scavi, where the structure of another Roman thermal complex has been identified is of considerable importance. It was in fact equipped with three large swimming pools and a theatre. These archaeological areas are part of the Aquae Patavinae project, which seeks to valorize the thermal district, as well as to institute an Archaeological Park of Euganean Thermal Baths.
The use of thermal springs for curative purposes is intrinsically linked to the theme of the sacrality of water. In the hilly zone nearby Montegrotto there used to be an "open air" warm spring sanctuary on the shores of a small lake which was frequented between the seventh and third centuries B.C. The offerings found here have inscriptions on them which evidence the existence of a cult, perhaps that of Aponus (from the Greek a-ponus: without pain), a local deity venerated in Roman times and possibly a transposition of the thermal god of the ancient peoples of Veneto.
By train: the site is near Terme Euganee-Abano-Montegrotto station, served also by long-distance trains.
By car: exit the A13 Motorway (Bologna-Padova) at “Terme Euganee” and proceed towards Montegrotto Terme city centre along Via Catajo (SP63 road).
Thermal sites restoration project:
Opening times for visitors: Lapis Archeologia (tel. 389 0235910; email@example.com)
Where to eat: we recommend the “Pizza Bar Spaghetti Da Mary” (Galleria Manzoni 19, Montegrotto Terme; tel. 049 8910256) and the “Ristorante Mamma Perdonami” (Via Manzoni 3, Montegrotto Terme; tel. 349 3600630).
Where to stay: near the archaeological sites we suggest the Hotel Terme Neroniane and the Continental Terme Hotel, both provide a spa and specialise in thermal treatments.
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