Equi Terme is the first station one reaches on the Lucca-Aulla line after passing through the 7.5 kilometre Lupacino tunnel inaugurated in 1959 and finally completing a railway which was begun in 1892. Railways had reached Equi by 1930 but only from the Aulla side. Kinta Beevor in her ‘A Tuscan Childhood’ describes how, when she was a girl staying with her parents in the imposing Fortezza della Brunella, the railway only reached as far as Monzone necessitating a pleasant walk through woods and the village of Aiola to reach Equi Terme.
Last night our choir didn’t take the railway but a coach instead since we had to get back the same night, by which time there would be no more trains until the following morning. The coach took us down to Lucca and thence by autostrada through the Versilia. By-passing Sarzana we reached Aulla where we left the autostrada to wind our way up to Equi Terme through increasingly hilly countryside.
Our reason for singing in Equi Terme was to participate in the commemoration for Saint Francis, whose patron saint Equi is and whose name-day is today, 4th October. Saint Francis is also, of course, patron saint of Italy so it’s a doubly important day!
Another reason was to celebrate the life of Signora Vinicia, the Lady of Equi Terme, with whom we always stayed when participating in the presepe vivente (living crib) and who sadly passed away las year.
(Signora Vinicia with Prof. Giovanni Fascetti at Equi Terme)
Here is Saint Francis surrounding by loving birds:
(Tiled picture in San Francesco Equi Terme)
Equi Terme, the source of a hot sulphur spring which was known to the ancient romans for its curative properties as excavations,revealing the original marble floors prove, is a town described as ‘quaint’ by that late-lamented traveller Eric Newby in his “A small place in Italy”. It certainly is that and more. The spa is well-equipped and has a lovely open-air swimming pool fed by the hot waters. If one is suffering from skin problems, breathing difficulties, gynaecological complications and rheumatic pains then certainly this is the place to visit.
The original hotel was named ‘Hotel Radium’ which, somehow, suggested to me a place where one would depart glowing in the dark. It has since been renamed ‘Hotel Terme’. (See http://www.lunigiana.net/alberghi/hotelterme.htm) Packages combining a stay at the hotel with a course of spa treatments are available.
The points of major interest in and around Equi Terme are the following:
The church of Saint Francis at the top of the old town.
The Solco di Equi – a narrow canyon with its rock walls almost touching each other. It’s a little over half an hour’s walk away.
The Santuario Della Madonna – a sweet little chapel about 40 minutes’ walk up a nearby hill where in 1608 the Madonna appeared to two shepherdesses. Whether you believe in visions or not it’s worth attending the festa in honour of the Virgin there on 7th June every year.
The Equi Terme natural park – the whole area is rich in limestone phenomena such as caves with stalactites and stalagmites and underground rivers. The most famous of these is the Teca di Equi Terme where each year the baby Jesus is born as part of Equi’s living crib celebrations. (These are most happily returning this Christmas after an absence of three years due to earthquake damage to the town). A little museum is in this spectacular park which displays relics of cave bears and Neanderthal people.
Our coach arrived in an Equi Terme decorated with chains of lights and little flags.
Event organiser Stefania met us and took us to the local hall where an ample repast of bread cheese and affetttati greeted us together with plenty of drinks, both soft and otherwise.
We then walked to the church of Saint Francis.
Our concert was a complete success. The little church of Saint Francis at the top of the hill was most attractively decked out with plenty of flowers. The nave was packed with, it seems, the entire population of Equi and the applause at the end was long and heart-felt. Most importantly, our choir-master Andrea was pleased with our singing.
These were the pieces we sang:
Sollevate o porte – Frisina
Celebra il Signore – Frisina
O Salutaris hostia – Perosi
Pane di vita nuova – Frisina
Ascolta creatore pietoso – Frisina
Gloria – Haydn
Cantate Domino – Hassler
Sanctus – Zardini
Stabat Mater – Kodály
Tollite hostias – Saint-Saens
Trisaghion – Frisina
After the concert we were invited to a further repast, this time consisting of cake and local wine.
We were then each presented with a copy of a very interesting book written by my friend and erstwhile teaching colleague, Giovanni Fascetti, on Equi Terme and the valley of the river Lucido, beautifully illustrated by his artist father and explaining everything about the area.
We met the local parish priest, a towering personality in more ways than one.
In this photograph you can see Andrea, Don Guido and Giovanni Fascetti whose love for Equi Terme inspired our choir in its venture to sing there.
We did not do the autostrada on our return but, instead went directly to the Garfagnana crossing the Carpinelli pass on endlessly twisting roads. As it was past midnight the road was mercifully free from any other traffic.
It’s significant that Equi Terme’s patron saint is Francis for it was he who created the first living crib in 1223 at Greccio.
We hope to see you at Equi Terme at Christmas for its own magical living crib! The presepe runs from 24th to 27th December. Further details are at http://www.presepeviventeequi.com/
(Banner of Saint Francis in Equi Church)
For more on Equi Terme’s and other presepi viventi see my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/no-room-at-the-inn-in-equi-terme/
For the Equi Terme earthquake see my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/midsummer-nights-nighmare/
For lovely walks around Equi see my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/of-dragons-irises-and-knights/ and at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/magical-mulattiera/
For more on our choir’s presence at Equi terme see post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/of-cribs-and-choirs/