Fiuggi, Italy (CNN) -- In the hilltop town of Fiuggi, southeast ofRome, I discovered I have a drinking problem. Not with wine or beer, but rather water.
The CNN crew had come here to do a story on what sounded like a veritable fountain of youth -- mineral water drunk by popes and princes for centuries for its rejuvenating properties, and that until a few decades ago you could only buy in pharmacies.
Since I've reached a point in my life where I sometimes feel my spring chicken days are behind me, I was eager to see what effect Fiuggi water would have on me. The water is most famous for its ability to dissolve kidney stones, and that fame goes back hundreds of years. I confess I don't have kidney stones and had to go to Wikipedia to find out what they are -- "a solid concretion or crystal aggregation formed in the kidneys from dietary minerals in the urine," caused by "low fluid intake and high dietary intake of animal protein, sodium, refined sugars, fructose and high fructose corn syrup, oxalate, grapefruit juice, and apple juice." Beyond that, we'll have to check with CNN's Sanjay Gupta.
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At the beginning I was very skeptical then I decided to come and drink the water and it really was a miracle. Giulio Albanese
Anyway, Pliny the Elder (who lived in the first century BC) praised the "healthy waters" here, and we visited a house which still had a functioning cistern dating back to Roman times.
Anna Batisti, Fiuggi's technical director, has worked at the spa for thirty years. She told me the waters cured Pope Boniface VIII (1235-1303) of a severe case of kidney stones. She said that as soon as word of the pope's miraculous recovery spread among the ambassadors to the Vatican, casks of Fiuggi water were sent to Europe's reigning monarchs.
Michelangelo also suffered from kidney stones until he became a habitual drinker of Fiuggi water.
While at Fiuggi I met Father Giulio Albanese, who had spent a good chunk of his life as a missionary in Africa. He said that he had suffered for years from kidney stones, and didn't hesitate to describe the suffering in terms so graphic and disturbing it was painful to listen to and too detailed to pass CNN.com's editors. That all came to an end when he followed the advice of an Italian doctor in Kenya who told him to go on a drinking binge in Fiuggi.
"I have to be sincere," Father Giulio told me. "At the beginning I was very skeptical. Then I decided to come and I can tell you, it really was a miracle," he declared. "I've managed to expel 41 kidney stones!"
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But it's not just kidney stones that Fiuggi treats. Fiuggi's medical director, Professor Renato Del Monaco, told me it cleans the kidneys and is also beneficial to the prostate gland, and "has the effect of keeping us young in every way, even for us men, it helps keep us young."
Indeed, off camera, one of the gentlemen quaffing glass after glass of Fiuggi told me it was the equivalent of "liquid Viagra."
This was confirmed to me by Lucia, a woman of a certain age, shall we say, who told me she came to Fiuggi because of her kidney stones, but her husband joined her because the waters, in her carefully chosen words, "made him more active."
To me, Fiuggi water itself seemed a bit flat. I'm accustomed to the water in Rome, which flows cool, clean and clear -- and free -- from the hundreds of fontanelli (little fountains) around the city (unlike Paris and London, in Rome there is no need to buy bottled water).
But despite the flatness, I figured I must immerse myself in the Fiuggi experience, so of course I over did it, downing perhaps two dozen glasses in just a few hours. For the rest of the day, and on the drive back to Rome, I had to stop every half hour to use the bathroom. I can't attest to its health giving properties, but Fiuggi water will definitely give your bladder a work out. I have to stop drinking like this.
Acqua di Fiuggi is best known in Italy for its history and various healing properties. In Italy the water is served at many restaurants and is popular in all major supermarket chains. Many Europeans drink the water daily for its light and smooth taste and for its supposed cleansing and depurative capacities (purifying effects) to the body. The source of the water runs through ancient volcanic deposits in the Ernici mountains which has an eco system that has historically been incredibly unaltered by man. In Europe it is classified as an Oligomineral water which is low in mineral content - Oligomineral waters are light and thus absorbed by the body much quicker than other waters. Fiuggi has been proven to contain certain components of the 'humic substance' group which, it is claimed, gives the water its health benefits. Fiuggi has been proven to be effective in breaking down and flushing out kidney stones from the body and helping to improve kidney function. It is known to aid in the removal of metabolic waste from the body and possibly to help flush out toxins from the kidneys via the urinary tract system. Many older generations in Italy claim that it is helpful to get rid of gout, uric acid and may increase the metabolism.
From the 60's to the 90's Fiuggi was known by its aggressive advertising slogan "Fiuggi - the water that keeps you young".
Situated at the centre of the Italian peninsula, in-between Rome and Naples at the feet of the Ernici mountain range, Fiuggi is embedded in a wonderful green surrounding in a region that is called "Ciociaria", which is an area of an immense cultural and natural suggestion. Besides Rome,Fiuggi is the city of Lazio which is best equipped and sought for in terms of tourism, yet, the atmosphere differs from that of a huge holiday destination: Fiuggi is a small medieval town on a country that lives hand in hand with its original natural and cultural rhythms.
The Thermal Springs
The pleasant and curative effect of the water of Fiuggi is proven scientifically. It results from the special geological features of the surroundings. In the city of Fiuggi, you can drink the diuretic water straight from two fountains, Bonifacio VIII and Anticolana.
The Thermal Spring of Fiuggi.
The water from the thermal springs of Fiuggi is classified as "natural, fresh water with little mineral content." Its pleasant and curative effects derive from the special geological features of the surrounding area; its diuretic effect is scientifically proven. And this effect manifests itself on various levels. Renal calculi are decomposed and their formation is prevented, the water of Fiuggiis also an ideal preparation for all kinds of operations in the urinary passage and as a form of therapy after the intervention. The traditional cure with the water of Fiuggi should be undergone twice a year for a period lasting between 12 and 15 days. This period of time corresponds to the duration of the hydro-saline metabolism and its circle of reactions to the cure. It is best to drink the water in the morning on an empty stomach and, if necessary, also in the afternoon after lunch and its digestion. A walk in between is recommended, for easy movements improve the circling of water within the body. Relaxation and a conscious and healthy nutrition are further aspects that support regeneration. You find all of this right at the thermal springs of Fiuggi.