The hot springs at Bagni di Bormio have been used since ancient times and many famous visitors have left testimony of their trip to the spa.
The ancient use of the hot springs at Bagni di Bormio was proved by the finding of a votive stele depicting a water deity in a conquering position, holding a trident upon which a fish is speared. This important historical find, probably Etruscan, was dated by some archaeologists to the 5th Century B.C, by others to the 1st Century B.C. In his Naturalis Historia Pliny Maior spoke of the many springs that originated in the Alps' ridges, astonished at the heat of the water, which have been identified as those of Bormio in Valtellina. Cassidorus, plenipotentiary minister to the Goths in Italy, gave testimony to the therapeutic properties of the “aquae Burmiae” in one of his letters in 535-6 A.D to Emperor Teodatus. On the base of such information and the particular mountainous geographical position it is thought that near to the Bagni Romani, where now stands the San Martino church, was once temple of the God of Water- Apollo, also known as Bormo.
Numerous archive documents and historical evidence allows us to get a good idea of the proceedings at Bagni di Bormio in Italian medieval times. Next to the church there were homes where monks abided, who ran a xenodochium, the “hospitium balneorum” in ancient records. There is also mentioned fortification constructions and a castle destroyed in 1201 following a peace agreement with Como, (the city of Lake Como) and subsequently rebuilt. The “superior baths” are of the same period, constructed to take full advantage of the higher springs, where today the Bagni Mediovali baths are found. Even in the 1300's Bagni di Bormio attracted many visitors that praised the health effects of the water. The most distinguished being the Italian Leonardo da Vinci, who stayed here in 1493, mentioning in his Atlantic manuscript: “In cima alla Valtellina c’è Burmi. A Burmi sono i Bagni” (at the summit of Valtellina there is Burmi*. At Burmi* there are the Baths) The Italian Duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro, followed him there three years later.
*Burmi is the ancient Italian spelling of Bormio
The rule of the Grigions(1512-1797):
The statutes of Bormio from the 1500’s give witness to the existence of two bathing structures: the one above being the Bagni Medioevali, reserved for the use of women and below, the Bagni Romani for men. This was a century in which the hot springs at Bormio in Lombardy gained particular fame, thanks to the passing of warfarers and merchandise heading for Tyrol and the Swiss crossing over the Stelvio and the Umbrail mountain passes, and there were plans to restructure and extend. In 1590 the serene Archduchess of Austria paid a visit to the Bagni di Bormio with her husband, the Archduke Ferdinand, who preferred the stillicide grotto above all. Also in the 1600’s they came to the Bagni di Bormio from the Germanic lands “one sees coming here every year Duchesses, matrons and noble ladies”, whereas the successive century was the least happy for the structure at Bormio.
The construction of a carriage road over the Stelvio, built with the favour of Emperor Francis of Austria-Hungary between 1820 and 1825, made it easier to gain access to the North of the Alps, reopening Bagni di Bormio to the International tourist market. The hotel was expanded and new pools were made with waterfalls, the Bagni Imperiali, and the Grotta Sudatoria of San Martino, the only one of its kind in the world that penetrates into the mountain for over 50m to where a natural spring originates, the water bubbles out from the living rock at a temperature of over 40°C. Bagni Vecchi’sluck continued also throughout the Italian reign, so much that in 1913 the hotel Belvedere was constructed in the Liberty style.
The achievement of the Bagni Vecchi as a thermal spa holiday resort, resulted in the building of a second wellness centre situated in a more spacious and accessible zone. The Grand Hotel Bagni Nuovi was built in 1836, that decreed Bormio as having one of the largest thermal tourist resort. Successive restorations and enlargements have been harmonically added to the original Neo-classic establishment, bestowing the hotel with a merry and elegant look typical of the Grand Hotels of the Belle Epoque era.
Every summer, coming to Valtellina and passing a pleasant holiday at the Bagni di Bormio, you would have found distinguished, noble and business people originating from all over the world. In 1908 many peopled stayed here, out of these; the ministers Sonnino and Salandra, Prince Francesco Buoncompagni Ludovisi of Rome, The bank of Italy's president Tomaso Bertarelli, Mr. Taylor and his son from New York, Herr Baron Von Alten and his wife from Hamburg. The Grand Hotel was closed in 1977. After a long process of conserving restoration, started in 1992, the hotel was reopened in December 2003 and the Spa in February 2004.