Lucca


Things to do in Barga a medieval town in Tuscany

Barga, one of the most beautiful hamlets in Italy

Barga is a beautiful town in the province of Lucca, located in the middle of the Serchio valley in a very beautiful area from a naturalistic point of view that winds between the Apuan Alps and the Tuscan-Romagna Apennines, as well as the nearby Garfagnana. The town of Barga boasts numerous awards such as the Bandiera Arancione of the Italian Touring Club, the inclusion in the list of the most beautiful hamlets in Italy and among the Slow Cities, as evidence of a first-class tourist offer thanks to its important historical and cultural heritage, natural beauty, culinary tradition and tourist services. The town rises at an altitude of 410 meters above sea level and is surrounded by vast wooded areas ideal for excursions and outdoor sports. A vacation in Barga can be an excellent combination of history, art and nature.

History of Barga

Like many other areas of Tuscany, the territory of Barga has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Here there was an insefiamento of Ligurians who were supplanted by the Romans during the second century BC. In the early Middle Ages Barga was a Longobard feud, then of the Marquises of Tuscany until the communal age when the town had to repeatedly face both Lucca and Pisa. Since 1341 the town entered the orbit of Florence and experienced a period of great economic development as evidenced by the construction of many fine buildings. The golden age of Barga ended with the annexation to the Kingdom of Italy and because of the economic decline many of its inhabitants emigrated to the United States and the United Kingdom. The Second World War marked another dark period for the city that was found on the Gothic Line and was therefore involved in the clashes.

Things to do in Barga: enjoy the historical city centre
Barga (Photo by Allie_Caulfield / CC BY)

Guide to Barga, places to visit:

Barga is a beautiful medieval village, one of the most interesting of all Tuscany. The historical center has maintained its structure made of twisted streets that intertwine at the foot of the Duomo. In the town there are several monuments of interest such as the Porta Reale, the Teatro dei Differenti, the Duomo, the Conservatorio di Santa Elisabetta, Palazzo Balduini, Palazzo Angeli, Palazzo Pancrazi and Palazzo Pretorio.

Porta Reale

If you get to Barga by car, I suggest you to park in piazzale del Fosso, where is the monument to Antonio Mordini; walking along the city wall you can get one of the three city gates once opened into the defensive walls: Porta Reale (also known as Porta Mancianella). Of the other two gates, only one remains, Porta Macchiaia, because the last one, Porta di Borgo, was demolished in 1833.

Conservatorio di Santa Elisabella

Beyond the city gate take via del Pretorio and begin to discover the treasures held in the historic centre of Barga. Along this twisty road, there is the conservatorio di Santa Elisabetta, created in 1456 as cloistered convent and become conservatory in 1788; alongside the  conservatory you can visit the chiesa di Santa Elisabetta thet inside preserves a big robbiana majolica and a fourteenth-century wooden cross.

Duomo

Via del Pretorio reach the highest point of the hamlet, where is located the collegiata di San Cristoforo better known as the Duomo di Barga (Cathedral of Barga). The beautiful Duomo di Barga stands in an exceptional panoramic position that allows to observe all the surrounding area from the Garfagnana to the Alpi Apuane.

The Duomo was built in many phases between the 10th and the 16th centuries; in the construction was used the alberese stone coming from the local mines. The facade, that in the beginning was the flank of the first church, has a portal is framed between two columns with Lions and a lintel with a bas-relief representing a scene of grape harvest. Before you get in, pay attention also to the portal along the left flank and particularly to the bas-relief on the lintel attributed to the sculptor Biduino (12th century) ; it is a very interesting work representig the Miracolo dello “Scifo d’Oro” di San Nicola (a Miracle by Saint Nicholas).

Things to do in Barga: visit the Duomo, the Cathedral of Barga
Duomo, the Cathedral of Barga (Photo by Davide Papalini / CC BY)

Inside, the first work that catches the eye is the beautiful pulpit (12th century) located in the main nave, attributed to the Maestri Comacini. This small podium is sustained by four columns, two of which are supported by lions and one by the back of an old man. In a niche of the apse behind the high altar, is the polychrome wooden statue that represents San Cristoforo. Other artworks as the Ciborium of the Holy oils, a terracotta attributed to Andrea Della Robbia, are preserved inside the lateral chapels.

Barga - Pulpit of the Cahtedral
The pulpit (Photo by Davide Papalini / CC BY)

Palazzo Pretorio and Museo Civico del Territorio “Antonio Mordini”

The large space to the left of the Cathedral is called “Arringo“. This place was once very important in the public life of Barga because in the past people gathered here in the assembly. Even if it looks like a simple building, the palace at the end of the Arringo is the Palazzo Pretorio. Inside is hosted the Museo Civico del Territorio di Barga reconstructing the history of the territory since prehistoric times. The museum has an archaeological section dedicated to the paleontolgy in the Valley of the river Serchio; a second part of the museum is about the archeology of the territory of Barga and the third part is on the Medieval an Renaissence Art.

Palazzo Pancrazi

Coming back to the hamlet, move in direction of the main square of the centre: piazza del Comune. Here there are the loggia del Mercato and the renaissence Palazzo dei Pancrazi (also known as Palazzo Comunale). Near this monuments deserve our attention the chiesa del Santissimo Crocifisso, the Teatro dell’Accademia dei Differenti, the chiesa della Santissima Annunziata and the Palazzo Balduini.

Teatro dei Differenti

The historic Teatro dei Differenti in Barga was founded in the 17th century by the Accademia dei Differenti. It is a place of historical and cultural relevance because, as a plaque on the facade reminds us, here in 1911 Giovanni Pascoli pronounced the famous speech “La grande proletaria si è mossa” (The great proletarian has moved) taking a position in favor of the war in Libya. From an architectural point of view, the Teatro dei Differenti has the typical characteristics of the Italian theater and is also renowned for its excellent acoustics.

Chiesa di San Francesco

Just outside the historical center, in via dei Frati, we finally find the convent and the church of San Francesco di Assisi. Founded in the 16th century, the church preserves some works of the Della Robbia school, some of which are attributed to the master Andrea della Robbia. Among these, an altarpiece with the Assumption of Mary, two statues of St. Andrew and St. Anthony, the altarpiece with the Nativity and a St. Francis receiving the stigmata.

Events in Barga

Barga every year hosts some events of great value especially during the summer period. The most famous is probably the Barga Jazz Festival that every year sees international artists perform with the participation of the Barga Jazz Orchestra. Not to be missed is the Opera Festival Barga that was inaugurated in 1967 and since then has helped to launch many singers, instrumentalists and stage artists.

Things to visit around Barga

Barga is located in a beautiful landscape, immersed in nature and surrounded by mountains. In its vicinity you can do many outdoor activities, including walking using the hiking trails, mountain biking, excursions of all kinds and also a lot of sport and fishing in the lakes near Barga. In the municipality of Barga there are also some points of interest worthy of note such as the ancient Pieve di Santa Maria a Loppia, an extraordinary Romanesque monument documented since the ninth century, and the house of Giovanni Pascoli which is located in the hamlet of Castelvecchio Pascoli.

Things to do near Barga: visit the Pieve di Santa Maria a Loppia near Barga
Pieve di Santa Maria a Loppia near Barga (Photo by Mong1984 / CC BY)

How to get to Barga

Barga is about 35 kilometers away from Lucca and it is well connected to the city by public transport. The nearest train stations are Fornaci di Barga and Barga-Gallicano, both connected to the historical center by buses. By car from Lucca you have to take the Strada Statale 12 and the Strada Provinciale 20 in the direction of Borgo a Mozzano and then Barga. By car it takes about 45 minutes to reach Barga from Lucca while by public transport it takes a little over an hour.

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