The Geo-Archeo Park, near Equi Terme in the territory of the Comune of Fivizzano, on the Lunigiana slopes of the Apuan Alps...
The Geo-Archeo Park, near Equi Terme in the territory of the Comune of Fivizzano, on the Lunigiana slopes of the Apuan Alps Regional Park (Tuscany), is a complex of sites of great naturalistic, geological, paleontological, and archaeological interest, comprising the Grotte cave system and museum, the Tecchia prehistoric rock shelter and related archaeological exhibition and the open-air geo-nature trails.
The fascinating Grotte di Equi caves complex is an extensive underground karst system modelled over the millennia by water, which as it penetrated fractures in the rock formed cavities, tunnels, halls, stalactites, stalagmites, and enchanting underground lakes. The outfitted cave tour itinerary begins in the Buca, the 'fossil' portion of the complex, known since the 1700s, and continues into the splendid 'living' Grotte with their active formations, discovered in 1985. An underground torrent runs through the Equi caves and surfaces near the entrance, as the 'Buca' karst spring, before running into the Fagli stream.
Next door to the reception centre is the exhibition centre, with information panels, audio-visual presentations, and a faithful reconstruction of the prehistoric cave-bear.
The Geo-Nature Trails
Outside the caves, the geo-nature trails offer a unique opportunity to study the protected flora of the Apuan Alps. Among the geological features along the trails are the Buca and Barilla karst springs and, visible in bird's-eye perspective from a suspended bridge, the Buca dei Serpi, a 'giant's kettle', a peculiar surface formation created by the erosive action of stones carried by turbulent water.
The inaccessible vertical rock faces characteristic of the area offer an ideal nesting habitat for many species of birds of considerable naturalistic interest, while the caves provide shelter for several species of bats that hibernate there during the winter and, in summer, sleep away the hot daylight hours.
The Tecchia and the Archaeological Exhibition
One of the principal attractions in the Geo-Archeo Park area is the Tecchia di Equi, an internationally-renowned archaeological/paleontological site comprising a vast outer 'plaza' called the Riparo, and a cave-shelter that extends about 30 metres back into the rock face.
The Tecchia is known above all for the great quantity of bones of now-extinct animals typical of a dynamic glacial/temperate climate and in particular of the cave bear (Ursus spelaeus). The excavations, begun in 1911, have also brought to light evidence of human use in the Middle Palaeolithic, the Copper Age, the Bronze Age and even in medieval times.
The long history of the Tecchia and of the excavations, now open to the public, is recounted in the archaeological exhibition at the site, where many finds relating to the cave bear and human artefacts, including very recent discoveries, are on display.