Barga is an interesting town in the heart of the Serchio Valley, close to the Garfagnana in northern Tuscany. Beautiful mountainous setting for this town with strong links to the UK and a deep love for music.
Drive an hour from Lucca, up winding roads that lead through chestnut forests and you’ll find the most attractive town in the Garfagnana. Barga is filled with surprises of all sorts, from its narrow squares, to the delightful Romanesque Cathedral of Saint Cristoforo. It’s also blessed with magnificent views and a lively music scene.
A hilltop town surrounded by mountains in the Serchio Valley, Barga’s streets are dotted with pastel coloured Renaissance buildings that reveal the influence that Florence has had on the city since 1341. Barga was in fact an important market town during the Middle Ages, coveted by Lucca and Pisa amongst others. Nevertheless it remained faithful to Florence for centuries, and in return was given many economic privileges that helped its commerce to thrive.
In Piazza Salvi you can have a taste of its history in brief. You’ll see the Loggia dei Mercanti (Merchants Loggia), where for centuries silk, salt, sheep cheese and honey were traded and next to it the Florentine Marzocco, the lion that symbolises Florence’s political power. You’ll also recognise the well known coat of arms – the “six balls” of the Medici, on the column.
There are photogenic corners and plenty of squares providing new vistas, but the highlight is definitely the Cathedral with its spectacular views over the valley and the mountains. This is one of the most impressive Romanesque churches in Tuscany .
What to see in Barga Tuscany, Italy
The Cathedral of San Cristofano is the artistic highlight here. A splendid example of Romanesque style set high above the town, on a large vantage point called the “Arringo”. This is a green expanse that was used as a meeting point for the people to discuss important matters and later for public executions. (Perhaps why the residents call it “Prataccio”, or “the nasty lawn”).
Since Medieval times, the church was an important spot not only for religious but also civic life. The town’s other focal point was the Palazzo Pretorio built in the 14th century, while under Florentine rule. The Palazzo Pretorio is home to the Civic Museum whose collection is dedicated to the history of the territory.
Santa Elisabetta Church: from the Cathedral, walk down the stairs to this 16th century complex and admire the altarpiece from the Della Robbia school.
Did you know?
Barga has a strong connection with the UK. Many people from here emigrated to Scotland at the beginning of the 20th century, which explains why there’s a fish and chip festival held here every year.
When to come to Barga?
When to come depends on what you are looking for. For walkers, spring is ideal while in September and October the autumn colours of the chestnut and beech forests are spectacular and delicious mushrooms are on the menu. The summer is a good time to come too. It’s not too hot and there are opera, classical and jazz concerts throughout July and August.
If you like the idea of visiting small towns with an authentic Tuscan feel, check out our post about ten charming towns in Tuscany.