Where is Barga in Italy? Barga is about 460 metres above sea level and especially in the proximity of Lucca, exactly forty-five kilometres from the province capital. Barga Lucca, Italy is also about seventy kilometres from the Tyrrhenian Sea of Tuscany and its delights and 120 from Modena. However, you have to climb over the Apennines to get there.
Barga is historically the most Florentine land of Northern Tuscany, yet this capital of the central Serchio Valley owes its notoriety to Giovanni Pascoli, a Romagna poet from the 19th century who settled in Barga and wrote one of his most beautiful poems for Barga: l’ora di Barga.
The poet settled in Castelvecchio, a hamlet of the municipality of Barga about 6 kilometres east of the medieval centre, where he wrote in honour of the newfound peace in those places, one of his most inspired collections: the "Canti di Castelvecchio".
Usually those who arrive near Barga, first stop right here. Today this small village of Barga is called Castelvecchio Pascoli and here the poet bought his house in 1895 thanks to the sale of some medals he won in the Competition of Latin poetry of Amsterdam.
We can say that selling the medals won in a competition does not seem to be the most beautiful thing and it is likely that the Dutch, because they now definitely know that the talented Italian guy sold their honours, are not big fans of Pascoli. All this has nonetheless given Barga great notoriety because visiting the House of Pascoli is really one of the main things when deciding what to see in Barga.
Giovanni Pascoli’s house in Barga is an exciting visit: you will feel alive and passionate looking at the memories of the time through the keyhole of this great writer: a dreamer and an idealist. In his house there are objects that belonged to him, starting from the three desks placed in his study: one was used to write in Italian, one for writing in Latin and one for Greek. Also in the house you will find the famous Pascoli Archive: about 36,000 documents written by him or other correspondence exchanged with intellectuals of the time, 1,600 photos (many taken by himself), 6,000 newspapers of his time with articles relating to him or that interested or inspired him. The poet died in 1912 and he is buried in his own house in Castelvecchio in Barga, Lucca.
Given the sacredness of Barga’s adopted poet, the biggest mistake you can do is to visit his house and set aside the rest.
Barga in fact, even before it received the flattering attention of the poet from Romagna, had a great history. It had been a Lombard settlement since the 8th century A.D. and a feud of the Rolandinghi family. Matilda of Canossa, on 26 June 1090, gave Barga special privileges and thus autonomy, one of the first in Italy to be lifted to this “commune” privileges. Lucca tried to undermine the Barga stronghold but the arrival of Frederick Barbarossa in Italy saw Barga confirming its status. The contrast with dominant Lucca lasted for centuries: first Barga tried to defend itself, with little success, then came the help of the Pope, to rebel against Lucca and secure peace it later allied with Pisa. Finally in 1341 it placed itself directly under the power of Florence to which it remained loyal until the unification of Italy.
Barga Castle is the historic centre of this Florentine outpost in Garfagnana, is located on the top of the hill, overlooking the valley and it is a very refined village and an Orange TCI Flag; its lanes and its streets provide a very pleasant walk. Always start from Piazzale del Fosso, which is also the parking area and this is the best starting point for a walk in Barga through the Porta Reale (Royal Gate). Before 1788 this gate was called Manciana, in that year the Grand Duke of Tuscany Pietro Leopoldo paid a visit to Barga and the gate then became "royal". This story is told so much in order to give you an idea of the dedication of Barga to Florence.
If you go through the Royal Gate there are two ways turning left is Via di Mezzo (Middle Way), very beautiful, which runs through the village and you will arrive on the opposite side to the Macchiaia Gate but, before you get there, stop in Angelio Square in front of the Angeli and Tallinucci Renaissance Palaces, then in Piazza Salvi, where the beautiful Loggia dei Mercanti is located built by Cosimo I de Medici in 1546, when the Barga market was instituted. So up and down this narrow street until the destination.
Visiting Barga in Italy you will come across the Teatro dei Differenti. In 1668 the most prominent Barga families formed an association devoted to the dissemination of culture and theatre, which then was called Association of the Different. In 1689 the work of these people led to the construction of this small theatre which gave Barga, although through various events over the centuries, its well-known cultural sensitivity that is still known today throughout Tuscany and it’s a pleasant discover for its sensitive visitors.
If instead at the Royal Gate you choose to go right, then here is Via Pretorio rising up to Arringo, the square with its great views where the people gathered for the big "referendum" decisions. There is the wonderful and millenary Barga Cathedral in Italy dedicated to St. Christopher, which is also the highest point of the whole town. Reports suggest that the construction of the Cathedral of Barga Italy started in 998 A.D. but the actual works of landscaping and finishing lasted for several centuries afterwards. The particular surprising part of this building is the beautiful stone facade in limestone, that is light and clean, typical of this part of Tuscany; inside the church, in the linear, essential and marble interior frame, you will find a pulpit dating back to the 12th century and several other works that make the Barga Cathedral a must to be visited.
The advice at this point is a must so as to be shamelessly and annoyingly trivial: from the door of Peter Leopold go anywhere you like, right or left, but then go back on the other side that it is worth it.
Barga Jazz Festival is the pride of the town of Garfagnana. This musical event fills the streets, squares, palaces and the theatres of Barga with concerts for the entire month of August. Barga Jazz is not only the live event of the greatest living jazz artists but also boasts the "Barga Jazz Competition", namely an Arrangement and Composition Contest for Jazz Orchestra. New talents have been assessed in Barga every year since 1986, competitors, musicians and fans can also follow for the entire period of the Barga Jazz Festival seminars, workshops and master classes with great and renowned artists almost every day.
As the month of August is dedicated to the great Barga Jazz event, the two previous months are dominated by the Barga Opera, a classical opera series with an even longer tradition. Barga Opera was founded in 1967 by the initiative of two British spouses who choose this mode to spread the values of musical culture and grow new talents. From then the Barga Opera has increased in popularity and now presents a program with appointments not only in Barga but also in other places in the province of Lucca and Massa.
A visit to Barga also benefits from the small villages around the area, especially around Garfagnana.
During World War II the famous Gothic Line, the imaginary line of defence built by the Germans to stem the Allied advance, passed right from Barga in Italy and different locations have been the site of fierce fighting such as Albione, a suburb to the north of the main centre which was partially destroyed by bombing, and also Sommocolonia.
Sommocolonia deserves a visit. Just 6 km north of Barga Castello, in a tangle of curves and hills, you will arrive in this small and charming village of stone houses where about thirty people located at 710 metres above sea level live on the top of its mountain. Sommocolonia was a former Roman outpost and over the centuries it was a thorn in the side for the larger Barga, before which it capitulated only around 1530. The war caused in 1944 the partial destruction of its castle and the death of many Allied soldiers. Today in Sommocolonia there is also a museum of memorabilia to commemorate those tragic events.
Tiglio Alto is also worth visiting for its wonderful location, 7km east of Barga, while going down south towards the most populated town of Fornaci, the town of Loppia and its Church from the 10th century are well worth a stop. It is a beautiful millenary Romanesque style church with three naves whose existence is documented in various papers of the Lombard period and exactly in 993.
The Barga hamlet of Fornaci is the area that had almost more popularity in the 20th century than the Castle because it was a large industrial centre. It is still the economic heart of the city and the whole area.
A visitor to Barga, on leaving the beautiful medieval village is advised to head north in the direction of Castelnuovo Garfagnana, and pass the latter town, which in reality deserves a long visit, to arrive at Lake Vagli. This albeit artificial lake is in a beautiful location that hides a submerged village at the bottom called Fabbriche di Careggine, Italy. The town, founded in the 13th century, was abandoned after the war and in 1947 submerged by the waters of this lake, as a result of the construction of a dam. Over the years, as a result of maintenance work on the dam, draining the lake has caused the village to be repeatedly resurfaced, which has become a coveted tourist destination.
One of the most frequently asked questions of the Barga Italy tourism attending a visit to the Province of Lucca and Barga is undoubtedly: "Fabbriche di Careggine, Italy When will they next empty the dam?"
Barga has a further international dimension because it is known to be "the most Scottish town in Italy". In the late 19th century many inhabitants of Barga, driven by the scarcity of labour and difficult living conditions, migrated and many headed to Scotland. Although they integrated into the social fabric of some of the Scottish provinces, many in Barga then returned home and invested what they earned in activities in their town and thereby ensured a new growth for Barbga.
Strong ties between Barga in Tuscany and Scotland remained, in fact, some popular festivals that bring the tradition of the men of William Wallace, such as bagpipes or eating fish & chips, continue to survive even today. Also twinning of the city of Barga with the Scottish land and annual trade missions and cultural exchanges take place with the areas of Scotland where there are the heirs of the Barga countrymen.
The well-known young Scottish singer Paolo Nutini, who recently became very famous in his country for his unique easy-rocker style, has clear and overt origins from Barga.
With the Apuan Alps in the background Barga is beautiful, attractive and sometimes a bit sad and severe, a wonderful place to spend an entire holiday also because, with a backpack and some will power trekking from Barga towards the Apennines is a wonderful discovery!
Get information at the CAI Section of Barga. If you have already arrived in Sommocolonia, then put your walking boots on and head to Saltello Pass at 1,600 metres. Do you want to go to Tiglio Alto but your car has broken down? Walking from the location of Fornacetta along the CAI No. 4 path, a medieval road, sometimes even paved, takes around 3 hours.
What to do in Barga, Lucca, Italy and its surroundings is just Apennines a hundred percent: mountain walks, horse riding and mountain biking. It is well worth the trip to have a good time. Have fun!
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