The wonderful living nativity scene of Equi Terme is a traditional Christmas event in northern Tuscany. Dozens of characters in costume let visitors re-live the magical atmosphere of the nativity of Jesus in Bethlehem. This year, taking advantage of the Boxing Day holiday, and desiring to take a healthy walk after the big fest of Christmas, we decided to take part in this exhibit.
The village of Equi Terme
Equi Terme is a really small village of Lunigiana, the Tuscan area known for its castles of medieval origin, traditional food and nature. It rises on the slopes of the Apuan Alps at the confluence of two creeks, the Fagli and the Lucido, and was an important centre since the time of ancient Romans for its thermal baths.
Today, due to an earthquake of few years ago, only few people live in the old centre of Equi. Moreover there are still touristic attractions that deserve a visit: the small hot springs and the Geoarcheopark with the karst caves, an archaeological site with rest of prehistoric animals and a museum with information about the grotto and the ancient inhabitants of the area. And during the Christmas time the living nativity scene beckons many visitors.
Being in the middle of the Apuan Alps Natural Park, it takes a little to be reached. Depending of where you are in Tuscany, you can use the car (approximately it takes 1 hour from the coastal city of Massa and Carrara and 1 hour and half from Pisa) or use the train (there is a direct regional train from Lucca that cross the Garfagnana and takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes).
A suggestive night view of Equi Terme, the hamlet where the nativity scene is located.
The itinerary of the nativity scene of Equi Terme
The narrow streets are the scenery of the living nativity scene of Equi Terme. We had to wait more than one hour to enter the hamlet due to a big turnout of people coming from the entire region. I could hear different Tuscan and Ligurian dialects while I was in the queue.
Moreover I was so happy to go because the living nativity scene was great. You could interact with the characters in costume, ask them what they were representing, and ask information about the tools they were working with.
The charactere of the nativity scene
Along the path we met dozens of characters and workshops: the mint, the pottery, the blacksmith, carpenters, sheep, ponies, the baker who was preparing delicious bread, people roasting chestnuts or serving hot sweet wine, shepherds that let you taste fresh cheese, old women spinning the wool and cotton, weaving nets and creating clogs. There was also a fortune-teller and Edoardo could not resist asking her to read cards for him. I have to say that she guessed completely right. Ancient Roman guards were walking along the streets looking for children to bring to Herod that was sitting on a terrace in the highest point of the village with a view on the foggy valley (as the “Gospel according to Matthew” says about the Massacre of the Innocents decided by Herod who was looking for the baby Jesus).
I was pleasantly astonished by the presence in the nativity scene of Equi Terme of all these participants and of the beauty of costumes and original tools. But the best was yet to come…
The textile workers spinning the wool.
A Roman Centurion.
A textile worker working a canvas with a real loom.
A woodworker with his son.
Tarots under the candle light.
Is there a better place than a real cave to host the ox, the little donkey, Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus? I guess no, that’s why I think there is no better place than Equi Terme with its karst complex to host a nativity scene.
Once out of the village, the itinerary kept going along the creek. We crossed a wooden bridge to reach the entrance of the big cave. Fortunately fog and humidity did not obstruct the view. Actually they helped to create a suggestive and magic atmosphere in the area. It was quite cold outside and entering the grotto a pleasant and warm heat welcomed us. The little Jesus was sleeping in Mary’s arms and Joseph was seated on the other side of the crib, while we stopped to admire the nativity scene and got a picture of them.
The last scenery was the camp of the falconry where we had the opportunity to get close and see a buzzard, a barn owl and a lovely little tawny owl, before to walk back to the car chilled but happy to have visited the wonderful living nativity scene of Equi Terme.
For further information here is the official website of the living nativity scene of Equi Terme: www.presepeviventeequi.com (Italian only).
The grotto of Equi Terme, where the manger with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus is located.
If you would attend the Nativity Scene of Equi Terme, these are the timetable:
December 23th and 24th | 08:30 PM – 11:30 PM
December 25th and 26th | 06:00 PM – 09:00 PM