The ancient Roman baths, as "ancestors" of the modern spas

Wellness, relaxation and body care are not achievements of the modern era. The research for a well-being state of mind through the care for the body has been a fascinating journey since the earliest times. An example of this effort are the ancient Roman baths: they deserve credit for having enriched our knowledge in wellness solutions, from the Finnish sauna to the Turkish bath. The ancient Romans were in fact the first to develop a true spa culture, made up of massages, diving and body treatments. Starting from the second century BC, they began to build the so-called thermae, monumental cities equipped with baths and rooms at different temperature. However, these were not simple relaxation centers. The Roman baths were a social institution in all respects: a sort of multifunctional recreational center, which, in addition to swimming pools and gyms, also housed libraries, art galleries, small theaters, inns and shops. Despite the possibility of following various thermal paths, the fundamental principle of the treatment consisted in the alternation between heat and cold, a stress still studied and applied for its therapeutic results: sudden changes in temperature reactivate the circulation, tone the tissues and strengthen the immune system. This principle is at the basis of the building structure of the spa itself, characterized by a succession of rooms with different degrees of heat. The main rooms included: - The Caldarium: in this room it is possibile to dive in hot water and steam baths, ancestor of the Turkish bath. Oriented to the south to take advantage of the natural heat of the sun, it was further heated by a floor system powered by a furnace, the so-called hypocaust; - The Tepidarium: comparable to modern Onsen cabins, it was the hearth of the Roman baths. Heated with warm air, it was used to prepare the body for thermal shock, preventing a sudden transition from heat to cold (and vice versa); - The Frigidarium: this room was used for low temperature baths. Generally covered, it was oriented to the north and had one or more pools of water, sometimes kept cold thanks to the use of snow. Among the heirs of the frigidarium, we remember the ice waterfall and the Polaris cabin Some spas were equipped with additional overheated rooms, specially designed to stimulate sweating, such as: The Sudatorium: a room intended for sweat baths for hot air or steam, similar to modern hammams

  • The Laconicum: the hottest room ever. Heated with dry air at very high temperature, it is comparable to the Finnish sauna