Equi Terme is a small village in the Lunigiana Region of northern Tuscany. Known for its caves, prized in prehistoric times for cave fauna and good water, it’s an interesting visit for those wanting to know more about the Apuan Alps and how their famous marble deposits were formed. Equi Terme is also a spa town, for those who want a spa cure for their ills.
From the train station, the village looks a little gray. Don’t let that fool you.
A little history of the grotto
Our story starts around 10-20 million years ago, when pressure from tectonic plates forces the sea floor to buckle in northern Italy, and the Apuan Alps begin to form. The enormous, slow pressure on the limestone compress it into the famous marble this part of Italy is known for. Since Equi Terme is in a very wet area, lakes and underground streams start carving caverns into the soft limestone, and eventually the fascinating cave system provides fodder for human exploration.
The first people arrive in search of water and good hunting grounds. They look for fissures, entrances into Mother earth, which they find in abundance here. One other thing they’ll find: Ursus spelaeus, the cave bear. They’ll hunt it, along with wolves, red deer and other animals. Later, shepherds will use the area.
Activities in the Equi Caves Geo-Archeo-Adventure Park
What most folks like to do is to tour the caves. The one hour guided tours include the prehistoric Tecchia (an archaeological and paleontological site located high on the park’s cliffs) and the Museum and will set you back 9 euro for an adult ticket.
You can also fly over the river on a zipline, get a guided tour deeper into the caves, rent an E-bike for a half-day to three days, and get an unaccompanied tour of the ApuanGeoLab earth sciences museum/laboratory.
Here is the list of all the options, costs, and times
The Zip Line Video
Here’s what the zip line path over the torrente looks like:
What it’s like to visit the Grottos of Equi Terme
If you are standing in front of La Posta, take the road that crosses the river in front of you, then turn right. The new visitor center is on your left. They should be able to give you all the information you need. They are open most days during the high season; it’s hit or miss otherwise.
Before you trudge up to the grotto, tour guides will give you a passable explanation of the caves in English. While there has been a fascinating history of human occupation here, the archaeology hasn’t returned the information scientists wish for—the area has been too jumbled by water and earthquakes to know for certain the exact provenience of found artifacts, so cultural sequences are difficult to determine. One thing is for sure: Neanderthals lived and hunted here, giving way to Homo Sapiens later. Still, you’ll come away with a much better understanding of the landscape of northern Tuscany.
So put on your hiking boots, grab one of the provided hard hats (there are some very low passageways) and be sure to bring a jacket or sweater, it’s cold way down there.
You’ll take at least 648 steps and you’ll gain 140 meters of altitude during your tour of the caves. A cave visit includes the sito preistorico della Tecchia, a prehistoric site where you can see excavated tools and bones. Don’t miss the cave bear skull.
What else to enjoy about Equi Terme?
The two restaurants on the main road are both good. Ristorante/Albergo la Posta serves good, homemade pasta and offers rooms. At Ristorante/Guesthouse da Felice (a locanda offering 5 rooms for rent) skip the pasta and order the antipasto, plate upon plate of local favorites. The new place, just inaugorated, in the Locanda Elena, which gets great reviews.
One of our favorite Lunigiana restaurants, Hotel Ristorante da Remo, is close by in Monzone, on the main road through town. Many hiking and trekking trails start from Equi Terme, including a marked trekking trail to the hermitage of Saint George.
If you want a place just outside of Equi Terme with stunning views of the Lunigiana landscape and a fine kitchen producing great food, we like the Agriturismo Al Vecchio Tino
People also bathe and wallow in the healing mud of the river, right in the heart of town. Follow the river east past the spa until it widens a bit, then wade in with the other folks. It’s free and open 24 hours.
There are activities at Christmas in Equi Terme as well, including living nativity scenes, presepi viventi, at night.
Yes, when you look at all the little gray houses spilling down the hill, you think it’s a ghost town. Don’t despair, there’s plenty to see. And you can take the train. The town has a rather hidden train station to the north and above the town, giving a good view of the way everything is layed out.
Have fun in one of Italy’s prime places to learn of the very old past.