Watsu in an Italian Hot Spring – Absolute Bliss

I’d heard that Italy has fabulous hot springs.  As well as delicious food, and wonderfully hospitable people.  On my visit to Italy this month, I discovered for myself – it’s all true.  And  then some.

In the middle of my week teaching Hawaiian Lomi Lomi in Verona, my hosts announced they were taking me to the “Thermale” – thermal hot springs.  We arrived at 8.00 pm, and during the summer months it’s daylight until 10pm so we had some time to appreciate the scenery walking into Parco Termale del Garda.  The park and lakes are lit and open until 1am in summer.

The entrance is a long walk down a stony lane into a huge green park, with manicured lawns, bordered by cypress pines. I was expecting a small water park – but this was a masterpiece of design on a large scale.  There is a small lake and large lake (5,000m2) for swimming, with white deck chairs and tidy picnic tables appropriately placed.  There is a magnificent glass-domed dining hall, and outdoor change rooms opening onto the large lake with a stunning crystal chandelier that I could see doubling as a wedding reception area.  In actual fact, these wood and glass gazebos are heated in winter so that you can enter the lake without exposing your body to freezing temperatures.

Footpaths meander through wooded forests, with cypress, yew, ancient sequoia and beech trees.  In the summer you can spend all day here, with a picnic lunch, wine, friends, family.  Socializing in fine European style.  I’m told these natural hot springs are absolutely amazing in winter, when it’s below zero outside and the water retains it’s heat. There are even accommodation villas in the park dating back to 14th century. Read the history here.

I went with 6 of my students, and as soon as we got changed, stepping into the hot springs after three days of massage was delightful.  The water temperature hovers around 33 degrees C, and there are two hot tubs within the main pool, which you step up into using wooden stairs. One is 37 and the other is 39 degrees.  Complete bliss.  There are strong jets within these hot tubs, I climbed in and directed them onto my lower back and was in heaven. A maximum of  ten minutes is suggested, then back to the main pool.  All along the sides there are water fountains, like this one, which provides a strong, warm hydromassage on your neck and head.

 But the best was yet to come.  

As we entered the water, the six people I was with broke into pairs and started giving each other Watsu (Water Shiatsu) in the pool. 

Each recipient was held languidly in the arms of their partners, being moved around in slow circles.  Their legs beneath the water were being lifted and stretched, passive dancing in the warm haven.  Having never seen this before, it was quite beautiful to witness.  Especially in triplicate. 
Later I realized this wasn’t “normal” for people to do in the hot springs.  These were all experienced therapists, and of course, it was normal for them.

Annalisa offered for me to experience her Watsu.  She held me in her arms, my right arm draped around her shoulders, and lifted and danced me slowly in wide aqua circles. My ears were below the water. All I could hear were the tiny pebbles on the floor of the lake as she walked upon them, muted children’s laughter in a faraway background, and the roar of water fountains.  The sky was beginning to darken and my body became one with the elements as she spun me around. Occasionally I would hear a sound of contentment escape from my throat, utterly unexpected. The entire experience was divine.  This was my first Watsu.

Aloha, Kimberlee

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