Often during July and August, I feel the need to disconnect from hiking and to look for adrenaline but at the same time relaxing experiences. Working in a hotel in Cinque Terre, I have always looked for, in the summer months, places far from mass tourism where I can switch off from stress which, combined with the heat and overcrowding, only increases my tiredness.
And what better place than Equi Terme? A place, located in Lunigiana (Tuscany), loved by naturalistic and niche tourism, it is an excellent destination for a day of escape because it combines sport, adrenaline, culture, history, relaxation, and wellness. It is a destination suitable for everyone: adults, children, seniors, and teenagers able to meet everyone’s tastes and needs.
A Roman village with prehistoric origins
Equi Terme, as we know it today, has Roman origins, but its territory has been inhabited since prehistoric times: the finds found in the Tecchia and Buca caves are proof of this.
There are several hypotheses about the foundation of the actual village, but the one I found most fascinating dates back to the ancient inhabitants of Luni who, following the destruction of their city by the Normans, settled in Equi. The name of the town could also refer to the presence of thermal springs, which, in addition to having created spectacular caves and cavities, were exploited in ancient times by the Romans, as evidenced by the findings of the original structure above which it was built in the century last the current thermal complex.
Shortly after the year 1000, the village was part of the territories of Spinetta the Great; later, it was ceded by the latter to the Malaspina di Fosdinovo family. Subsequently, Equi Terme passed under the protection of the Republic of Florence and ended up under the control of the Castiglione del Terziere di Bagnone. From 1726 it became part of the territory of Fivizzano, which is still a fraction today.
Starting from the 19th century in the Equi area, marble quarries were opened and the area, once dedicated to sheep farming and agriculture, was exploited to extract marble.
The village of Equi is home to millenary but also more recent traditions
Like me, all the people from La Spezia will undoubtedly know Equi Terme for its live nativity scene that every year animates the village and attracts visitors from all over Tuscany, Liguria and many other areas of Italy. In fact, during the Christmas holidays, the town turns back in time and its inhabitants wear historical clothes and recall the ancient crafts. The visit winds through the houses of the village until you reach the cave entrance where the nativity is represented.
But the village of Equi Terme, in addition to the importance linked to traditions, has naturalistic peculiarities that make it very fascinating. Perched at the foot of Pizzo d’Uccello, between Lucido and Fagli streams, the town, made up mostly of stone houses, is surrounded by the green Apuan landscape. In the center of the village is the church of San Francis, also made of stone. In the forest above the town is the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Bosco, famous for its history linked to miracles and apparitions.
The thermal waters of Equi are very famous, and they are mainly sulfurous, with a temperature ranging from 17 ° to 27 °, effective against many problems, including dermatological problems, those of the respiratory system and for osteoarticular diseases. The curative structure in recent years seemed closed to me, while the sulfur pools are accessible.
I remember that the first time I saw the pools, I was still a child, and the thing that surprised me the most was their characteristic “rotten egg smell”, I called it that way. But the softness of my skin and hair surprised me even more after a morning of swimming in the pool. Last summer I was pleased to note that the management of the Equi pools has worked to deal with the COVID-19 emergency, establishing some of the most efficient prevention and sanitization measures I have seen, thus guaranteeing visitors a pleasant experience, relaxing and far from worries.
Continuing beyond the pools, you can find some free thermal baths as well: there are some shallow sketches along the stream, and often you will also meet some lovely ducks. The water of the Equi termal baths, both in the free ones and in the private ones, is quite cold, so bathing is recommended only in the summer months.
The Equi Caves Park: excursions into karst caves, zip lines, and experiences for the little ones
The Caves of Equi are the largest and most famous ones in Lunigiana. They are karst cavities, which date back thousands of years and are composed of a fossil part and a part that is still evolving. One of the halls of these caves is even used to host concerts and has exceptional acoustics. To visit them, you need to reserve a tour, mainly since last summer because of the pandemic. You will be welcomed by Park guides that are very prepared and kind. Undoubtedly, the public with the most fun are children: among stalactites, stalagmites, and underground waterways, the guides will be able to involve them as leading actors of the tour.
The karst complex also has a third part, which can only be visited by booking the speleo adventure: a route that can only be undertaken with a helmet, torch and harness to discover the most remote and fascinating corners of the cave. In short, a path for true adventurers! I haven’t had the chance to try the speleo adventure yet, but it’s at the top of my to-do list when they kick off the travel between regions.
Recently Equi Caves Park has added a new activity: the zip line. It is 200 meters long and crosses the karst stream furrow at about 20 meters. In short, a real adrenaline experience but in total safety. The guides assist visitors so that they can enjoy the route without any risk, and it is precisely for this reason that the management of Equi park has created a safety system that allows you to fly in a zip line doubly secured to the cables.
Ed è proprio questa la mia esperienza preferita ad Equi Terme! La sensazione di libertà, il vuoto sotto di me, la velocità… ho adorato il volo sullo zip line a tal punto che ho convinto a provarlo 3 mie amiche, il mio fidanzato e mia nipote di 11 anni.
Nel parco delle grotte è inoltre presente la Tecchia Preistorica, con una mostra che documenta la presenza dell’uomo preistorico nonchè diversi esemplari di animali nel territori, e un museo con le riproduzioni in scala naturale dell’uomo di Neanderthal e di un gigantesco orso delle caverne. Per i più piccolini nei pressi della reception del complesso è presente un’area giochi dedicata a loro con percorsi tipici dei parchi avventura tra cui una parete di arrampicata.
Tutte le attività sono soggette, a partire dallo scorso anno, alle misure di sicurezza previste dai DPCM e il personale si adopera sempre, con gentilezza e serenità, a farle rispettare dai visitatori.
My experience in Equi
My ideal day in Equi Terme is a very hot high-season day, one of those long-awaited days of rest when my only desire is to stay away from the crowds. I arrive at the village in the middle of the morning, and after leaving the car in the free parking of the village I spend a few hours at the area of the sulfur pools. At lunchtime, I have the pleasure of tasting the typical dishes of Lunigiana at the restaurant in the center of the town, an informal restaurant with specialties that make your mouth water at the very thought: sgabei with excellent cold cuts, homemade pasta, main courses of meat and fabulous desserts.
depriving myself of the specialties of the area) I go to the reception of the tourist center to start visiting the caves and the zip line. The latter in the summer months is recommended only in the afternoon as the area is very sunny and too hot in the morning. At the end of these experiences, I have time for one last hour in the pool before setting off on the way back. Without a doubt, there are also other experiences to live in Equi, such as the excursion to Pizzo d’Uccello or other routes. I hope to be able to return as soon as possible to experience a day of escape, adrenaline and relaxation.