Walking the streets of Barga you will find some great shops, great snack foods, and lots of window shopping. However, to do this, you must walk up....as the streets are really narrow and only the locals can drive on them. So you start at the bottom, there is a nice parking lot located near the center where you can leave your car.
Hit the bakery across the street to load up on some carbs.... ha ha
Then you start towards the top. Looks easy.. but NOT.
Along the way you might see the outdoor market.. We were there on a Sunday. You will see items made for your kitchen and clothes.
Then you choose one of several streets that take you to the top where the big church is. Sometimes you can see the top of the church, but usually the buildings block the view. You just keep hoping that soon you will be there. About this time, it gets steeper. And then more steep.
You will make a rest stop... and then finally you are there.
Oh, the view is terrific and you have forgotten how much you are tired.
Barga is located on a hill, like what seems like every village in tuscany! the best way to explore it is to leave the car and walk along its cobblestones streets up to the top where the cathedral is.
It is a long walk and very steep in some parts so I would not suggest it to people with walk disabilities but it is very enjoyable. Make sure you wear sturdy and comfortable shoes.
Along the way there are a bunch of shops for souvenirs and many interesting spots for photography.
The hill part of the center is walk only so there will be almost no traffic a part from some resident's car, and it will be quite interesting to observe how they menage to drive in those narrow tiny streets.
The cathedral at the top of the hill offer a spectacular view of the valley below and, in case you could not walk, it is possible to reach by car.
The area around Barga is spectacular and perfect for walking (or hiking). You can try to find the paths yourself but there are regular guided walking trips with walks out of Barga. Try the CAI or Tuscanywalking.com.
One lovely walk is one to the historic village of Sommocolonia which looks down on Barga. There isn't a bar in Sommocolonia so if you decide to do the walk, take drinks and something to eat. It's a lovely picnic spot with absolutely fantastic views of Barga below so pack your camera too!
This was the place where Giovanni Pascoli recited poetry here for years and lived in the town. He gave a famous speech about the war in 1911. It has been used as an opera house since 1690 and Madam Butterfly debuted here in 1904. The building was constructed beginning in 1668 and operated until 1785, when the Duke believed it was too small to present good shows of culture. IN the 1800's a new building was constructed on top of the old one. That fell into a bad condition and clsoe din 1982, to again be re-opened in 1998.
There are some very nice and quite shops to purchase goods that may not be found elsewhere. They have some related to the Scottish heritage due to local residents moving to that country when times were hard in Italy.
This town is on top of a hill that allows you to look all around and take in the terrain of the valleys and hills. Around Bara a little villages like Albiano, Ciocco, Castelvecchio Pascoli and Bugliano. All can be visible from Barga which is on one of the higher hill ranges at 1370 feet. Below is the Serchio valley and river. It was founded by the Lombards and the city walls helped the growth because of the protection and good vantage point to defend attacks. Silk threads were and still somewhat are the staple of trade for the people. They have some shops selling the cloth wares. Claim is it is the most Scottish town in Italy. Does that mean they wear kilts, or are tight on the money? The locals went to Scotland looking for work in hard times. There are Scottish crafts being sold, and you do note those while walking up to the Duomo.
The main features inside are the pulpit made of red and white marble with the lion statues and one where a man is supporting another of the red columns that are holding up the pulpit, made by Guiodo Bigiarelli da Como, and a wooden figure of St. Christoforo in the choir box surrounded by the pipes for the organ. That carving is 3 1/2 meters tall.
The church was first started in 900 but they got serious in about 1100 to complete the structure. That took until 1600 century to finish when two more chapels were added and the choir box. The campanile was finished in the 16th century. The original limestone facade still has some of the work showing. The whole top area around the church is smooth paved stone from centuries in the past.
These are for casual reference in order to show the layout. The apparent main port entry is Fornaci di BArga, and you go through the arched stone, but the tourist entrance may be Porto REale, where the parking lot is located. It is at the foothills of the Apuan Alps and the views are great. The winding road climb to get there is a trip besides.
Housed in a building that looks like it may have been one of the original structures in the village, it is a real secret of finds. The features are from Paleo times through current day archaeological periods. It is extensive, but seems to have a little space form the outside. You can find out how you got into life as it exists today and the glacial impact of this hilly area.
It is at the top of the village. The walk is nice and the streets nearly deserted. It does take a while to get to the duomo. It was built first in 10th century and added over time of four hundred years to current state and size. Inside it is serene with a dark interior and lions supporting an pulpit said to be designed by Guido Bigeralli in 13th century. The red marble offsets the sculptures and sets off the pulpit well. The choir area has the large wood statue of St. Christopher said to be carved in 1000 era. It is not austentatous like a lot of churches, but seems to be for the every day use of the town's residents. It is over 1,000 years in age and well taken care of since. The stone is known as albarese. It was taken out the resupported in 1927-39 to strengthen the church foundation sitting on limestone base.
The streets of pretty quite and you can walk around and enjoy the various winding streets. Yes, you can get lost, or better known as misdirected. Keep looking for the Duomo steep tower for benchmark to that elusive top of the high hill. Barga has cobbled lanes and quaint homes hanging into the streets. The incredible location at the fringe of the Garfagnana realm, is at the end of a winding road to nowhere but here; it seems. Its medieval foundations, narrow streets, tiny squares and steep stairwells are a great adventure to venture. At the top is the 12th century cathedral with an impressive panoramic view.
The city dates back into Lombard times when it was a castle surrounded by fortress walls. The walls still exist and are impressive for the internal part of the town of 10,000. It appears 1/2 of the people live inside the walls. In Medieval times Lucca and Pisa fought over dominance because it was a wealthy town that earned a reputation for making quality silk. But the Medicis of Florence also had a hold on the town until going into the independence state in 1861.
The area around Barga is known as the Garfagnana. This area is north of Lucca
While driving toward Barga, we were astonished at how beautiful the natural scenery is. There are mountains (Orecchiella mountains and the Alpi Apuane), beautiful rivers, lush forests (Parco dell'Orecchiella and the Parco Naturale delle Alpi Apuane), and rolling countryside.
We took one whole day just driving the area and stopping in small towns and beside beautiful lakes. We also got lost, but a friendly local directed us back in the right direction.
In the Storico Center of Barga way up this steep hill, the Duomo is located. This church is one of the oldest. It's a simple looking church made of beautiful tawny stone.
Inside the church is some wonderful art pieces. The picture shows one of a disciple carrying a child on his shoulder who, in turn, is holding up a minature replica of the world. Symbolic of the strength of children.
While we were visiting the Duomo, they were installing new bells. It was a fascinating procedure to observe. It was an unique experience to watch the men hoist the bells up to the top of the bell tower.
I just regret that we were not in Barga long enough to hear those very bells.
Each Saturday in the center of Barga, a weekly outdoor market takes place.
It is filled with vendors selling food products, clothing, CD's and Tapes, fresh flowers, and other miscellaneous items. It's great fun to talk with the locals and to check out the merchandise.
I purchased some fresh flowers which I put in a wine bottle in our room. Even though it was not a necessary purchase, it brought us pleasure, and each time I place fresh flowers from my garden in a bottle, I think of that lovely day in Barga.