Padua is a famous city of the Veneto region of Italy, known for being the final resting place of Saint Anthony of Padua and for its remarkable Giotto frescoes. Many visitors to northern Italy stop here on their way to or from Venice from Bologna or Milan or make a day trip while based in Venice. Fewer are aware that just a few kilometers from Padua sits one of Europe's biggest spa regions—composed primarily of the neighboring towns of Abano and Montegrotto Terme. These spa towns are famous for their thermal waters and therapeutic mud treatments. As a place to base for a few days or relaxation and pampering, or as a day or half-day outing from Padua, Abano and Montegrotto Terme offer visitors a chance to experience a unique destination in the Veneto.
About Abano and Montegrotto Terme
Abano and Montegrotto are two of the most important towns in the Euganean Hills, or Colli Euganei in Italian. The hills lie south-southwest of Padua (Padova in Italian) and have been known since pre-Roman times for their thermal waters. The Romans knew a good thing when they found it and built thermal bath complexes in the area. These functioned much as spa towns do today—as resort areas where Romans from throughout the Italian peninsula could come to relax and "take the waters."
The thermal water that flows from springs and through the rivers and lakes in the Euganean Hills originates from deep underground, in the Prealps, the lower mountains on the southern edge of the Alps mountain range. From there, it travels about 50 miles over a space of 25-30 years to bubble out of the ground in the Euganean Hills at 189 degrees F (87 degrees C). This long geologic process means that the water is incredibly mineral-rich, and with a mineral composition found nowhere else in the world.
The therapeutic benefits of the water and heated, mineral-packed mud extracted from the hills are the basis of the spa industry that now dominates in Abano, Montegrotto Terme, and other towns of the Euganean Hills. Mud treatments are a big draw here—spa clients enjoy hot mudpack therapies that target aches and pains, rheumatism, digestive disorders, and a long list of other maladies. The mineral waters are used for inhalation therapies, in steam rooms and thermal pools, and as ingredients for beauty products.
What to See and Do in Abano and Montegrotto Terme
While the waters may have drawn visitors for thousands of years, the towns of Abano and Montegrotto Terme are mostly modern, with most buildings dating to the 20th century. People don't visit them for sightseeing—they visit for the spas. There are more than 40 spa hotels in the two small towns, ranging from modest three-stars to luxury five-star facilities. All offer thermal pools and spa facilities, and almost all provide mud-pack treatments on their spa menus.
There are several ways to "take the waters" at Abano and Montegrotto Terme:
- Use a public pool. If you just want to swim or soak in thermal waters, you can access public and semi-public hot water pools at the Piscina Communale di Abano Terme and Columbus Thermal Pool. At more than 138 feet deep, the indoor Y-40 Pool is the world's deepest pool and offers opportunities for swimming, scuba, and free-diving.
- Pay for the day-use of a hotel pool and spa. The majority of hotels in the spa area allow non-guests to use their facilities for periods ranging from a few hours to all day. Day-use guests can make appointments for spa and mud treatments, and use thermal pools, whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms, and other facilities. Note that in many hotel pools, non-guests are restricted to certain hours of the day, and may pay slightly more for spa treatments.
- Stay at a spa hotel. To relax and get a taste for European-style spa vacations, book a stay of one or more nights at one of the many hotels in Abano and Montegrotto Terme. Most hotels allow guests to choose from all-inclusive packages that offer meals, pool, and thermal area access and a set number of spa treatments, or simply book for a night or two, use the thermal facilities, and select optional spa treatments a la carte. See below for a list of recommended hotels.
Other area attractions. Once you've had your fill of thermal waters and mudpacks, take in some of the sights of the Euganean Hills. The Colli Euganei Regional Park offers hiking trails, waterfalls, historic churches and ruins, and many opportunities to observe local flora and fauna. The region of Veneto is known for its Palladian Villas—the grand mansions designed by Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. Several are within 30 minutes' drive from Abano and Montegrotto, including Villa Saraceno, Villa Repeta, and Villa Pojana. Lastly, but not least, Padua is an easy trip from the spa area, made easier with buses, trains, and hotel shuttles.
Where to Stay and Eat in Abano and Montegrotto Terme
Hotels in both towns range from modest to deluxe, with many offering affordable package stays of a week or more. Here are some top-rated properties, sorted by star-ranking:
- Five-star Hotel Tritone has indoor and outdoor pools and more than seven acres of parklike grounds.
- The thermal garden at four-star Hotel Mioni Pezzato is the centerpiece of this modern, low-rise hotel.
- Hotel Cristoforo is a family-friendly three-star hotel with indoor and outdoor pools, right in the center of Abano
- Terme di Relilax Boutique Hotel & Spa is a five-star with a unique lagoon-style pool infused with magnesium and potassium, as well as physician-managed spa and dietary programs.
- Hotel Millepini is a modern four-star facility, and home to the Y-40 deepwater pool (see above).
- Pet-friendly Apollo Hotel Terme is a three-star with several pools and a full-service spa.
Typical of the Veneto region, cuisine in Abano and Montegrotto Terme focuses on risotto, cured meats from nearby Montagnana, and locally grown olive oil. Several local wineries produce red, white and sparkling wines. If you stay at a hotel in one of the towns, meals may well be included in the nightly rate.
How to Get to Abano and Montegrotto Terme
Abano and Montegrotto Terme are 7-10 miles, respectively, from Padua's city center. Frequent trains connect from Padua's central station and stop in both towns, as do commuter buses. If you arrive at one of the town train stations, many hotels are either within walking distance or have shuttle bus service. If you're driving between Padua and Bologna, the towns are located off the A13 autostrada at the Terme Euganee exit. The closest international airports are in Venice and Bologna.