Majestic peaks from which there are incredible views of the sea, rugged morphology, deep valleys, spectacular caves, and verdant lakes: the Apuan Alps, which just a few kilometers from the coast of Versilia rise to a height of almost two thousand meters, are a fascinating spectacle of nature.
Since 1985 the Apuan Alps have been protected by the Regional Park of the same name, which has been part of the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network since 2011. The European Natura 2000 Network also protects these mountains, which preserve the greatest biodiversity in Tuscany. The park stretches between Versilia, on the maritime side of the Apuan Alps, Garfagnana, the inland side, and Lunigiana to the north.
The geographical position and the different nature of the rocks determine the presence of environments with high floristic and faunal biodiversity. Numerous botanical rarities, such as globularia, santolina and pinguicola apuana, can be admired in the wild or in the Ansaldi-Pellegrini Botanical Garden, a splendid alpine garden located in Pian della Fioba, in the municipality of Massa.
Wildlife is also present with species of conservation interest such as the chough (symbol of the park), wolf and golden eagle.
The Apuan Alps guard a unique and particularly impressive subsoil, and there are more than 1,300 caves surveyed, formed over hundreds of thousands of years by the action of water, which, penetrating the fractures in the limestone rocks, has formed spectacular shafts, tunnels, halls and concretions.
Three tourist complexes are open for guided tours: the Antro del Corchia in Levigliani, the Grotte del Vento in Fornovolasco, and the Grotte di Equi in Equi Terme.
Natural rarities include Monte Forato, with its large natural arch - one of the largest in Italy -visible from both Versilia and Garfagnana: on some days of the year it is possible to watch the sun rise as it passes through the arch from the villages of Volegno and Pruno, in the municipality of Stazzema.
Also spectacular are the Marmitte dei Giganti, deep, more or less cylindrical cavities carved vertically into the limestone rock by the work of torrents; the most famous are those of the Anguillara torrent on Monte Sumbra.
The Apuan Alps are also rich in water and artificial lakes, created for power generation and now a fascinating destination, such as Lago di Vagli, which hides under the surface of the water the ghost town of Fabbriche di Carreggine, which was completely submerged in 1946 to build the reservoir.
On the shores of the lake at Isola Santa, on the other hand, is a charming, partially abandoned village.
The park's visitor centers, from which to request information and services, are located at Equi Terme in Lunigiana, Bosa di Careggine in Garfagnana, Massa and Seravezza. The Equi Terme center also features the Apuangeolab, an interactive earth science museum.