What to see in Barga

What to see in Barga - Places to visit in Barga


Barga is a Tuscan town, located between Lucca and Castelnuovo Garfagnana, in the province of Lucca and still manages to maintain its typical characteristics, which make it become one of the most authentic villages in our country, around the Cathedral, in fact, are intertwined many small streets, which have maintained their typical characteristics of the Middle Ages.

The narrow streets are dotted with alleys with steps, which are called "carraie". Even today you can admire the ancient walls that protected the city and the main entrance gates, such as the P Porta Reale (Royal Gate) or "Marcianella". The area where today rises Barga was inhabited already during the prehistoric age, as evidenced by the numerous finds found in the territories around the inhabited centre. During the Roman Empire passed to the empire and during the age of the municipalities suffered clashes between Lucca and Pisa, until 1341 when it came under the rule of Florence. For Florence Barga was a real feather in the cap, becoming one of the most active centres of commerce and textile production of the time.

Barga has a population of about 10,000 people and has been a city since 1933. From here you can admire the entire valley of Gargagnana, as the town stands on a hill about 400 meters above sea level in the Media Valley of Serchio.  Barga is a small town and you can visit it on foot. Walking through the typical streets it is impossible not to stop at the arringo, it is a meadow that connects the cathedral and the Praetorian palace. Once the people gathered here to make the most important decisions, today you can enjoy a splendid view and relax after a day of work. Barga is also called "the most Scottish city in Italy" because from here, during the 1900s, there was a strong migratory flow to Scotland, as a consequence of which Italian emigrants had summer residences built in Barga, which are very reminiscent of the Scottish Art Nouveau style.

Historic Centre

As mentioned, the structure and the various monuments of the centre of Barga date back to the Middle Ages. It must be said immediately that the medieval face of the town has been miraculously preserved despite the many merciless war events to which Barga has been subjected over the centuries. Among the main roads, Via di Mezzo (which crosses the whole length), Via di Borgo (which measures the width) and the Via del Pretorio, which together with Via della Speranza follows the course of the old walls of the castle, passing under what was the center of the fortress and its last bulwark in case of extreme defense, ie the Cathedral. Among these main arteries there is a dense network of uphill and downhill roads and gently sloping steps: the so-called "caravans", almost never touched by the sun and all in suggestive dimness. And fabulous little squares with paved sound, embellished with churches and palaces from different periods, from the Middle Ages to the 17th century, yet harmoniously coexisting within the ancient setting of the city.

Porta Manciana

The Porta Manciana or Royal Gate, which is also the main one in the city, carries the city coat of arms up high, which dates back to 1185 (when Barga took away from the yoke of Lucca with the help of Barbarossa) and carries as a wish the boat with the sail deployed. To its right is the square of the Fosso, rectangular, in front of which stood a hill in defense of the city walls. These, raised and fortified at the beginning of 1500, were partially demolished in the first decades of the last century, when was dismantled also the tower that was in communication with the Royal Door and near which was located the Rivellino (type of independent fortification generally placed to protect a door of a major fortification) famous for both the defense opposite to Pisa in 1363 by the beautiful women of Barga, and for the defeat suffered by the warlord Piccinino.

Porta Macchiala

Porta Macchiala, located on the other side of the Via di Mezzo and so called because it led to the "spots", namely the beech forests of the Apennines. It has remained almost intact since it was built (mid fifteenth century): it is not missing that the drawbridge. The bridge, moreover, has lost it also the Porta di Borgo, which was the gateway to the same name. Via di Mezzo, via di Borgo and via Pretoria are therefore the three cornerstones of the city, and it is not surprising that there are prestigious buildings that belonged to the most famous families who have lived in the city over time. However, there are many people's houses here and in the side streets that redeem their anonymity with an elegant portal or with some other delicious detail.

Collegiate Church of San Cristoforo

Interno Duomo di BargaOn top of the hill, in the highest part of the historic center is the Collegiate Church of San Cristoforo. It is an imposing building whose current facade corresponds to the left side of a previous parish church. The Church dedicated to St. Christopher is one of the symbols of the city of Barga, its construction took place in different stages. The Duomo was born in the same period of the birth of the city: it was built, according to an ancient parchment, before the year 1000, as a castle church dedicated to St. Jacopo ... Continue reading on the Collegiate Church of San Cristoforo.


Adjacent to the Duomo the lawn of the Arringo, which evokes the life of the municipality before the Florentine rule. Here the citizens met to decide on war and peace; and here the magistrates were elected and the life of the Castle was administered. In the 13th century, the Praetorian Palace was built there, the seat of the Florentine Commissioners and Podestà, who left their names in the coats of arms under the loggia, on whose walls are marked the ancient measures of the Barga. In an underground part of the Palace are the prisons, which in past centuries have housed political prisoners, who paid with their lives, on the lawn of the Arringo, the attack on the freedom of Barga.

I grandi palazzi di Barga

It is curious to see how in such a small town (Barga has about 10,000 inhabitants) there are many historical buildings. This is due to the prosperity that the city once enjoyed, especially during the Renaissance, when it was under the rule of Florence and the Medici family. It was then that buildings such as Palazzo Balduini were built overlooking Piazza Garibaldi. And also in the sixteenth century was built the Palazzo dei Pancrazi in the vicinity of which is a column of 1548 in honor of Cosimo I de 'Medici, in addition to the Loggia dei Mercanti, which was the seat of the weekly market. Palazzo Pancrazi, of refined elegance in the drafts that adorn the door and windows also contains a rich archive (there are documents preserved from the late fourteenth century) and the rich library. Another loggia is very different, now that of the Podestà. An original building of the XIV century where the mayor and the commissioners who sent Florence to the city lived. That is, it was the seat of power and also of justice, because it included the court and the prison. All this can be visited in the Barga Civic Museum.

Certainly, an unhurried stop deserves the Palazzo Bertacchi, built on an ancient tower, the residence of the Grand Dukes during their stay in Bargano. And so it is of the severe Palazzo Pleracchi, in whose courtyard is set a well of the twelfth century, and of the Palazzo Nardini, now semi-dried, which housed the first hospital of Barga ("Hospital of Santa Lucia") whose considerable heritage passed at the time of its suppression at the Hospital of Pisa. Facing each other, there are the ancient Palazzo Borghesano (which belonged to a large family of entrepreneurs, one of whom, Bolognino, in 1342 transplanted to Bologna the art of silk already flourishing in Barga) and the Gothic Palazzo Tallinucci, which was not spared by the war and where Dr. Piero, founder of today's hospital, was born. And again, the sixteenth-century Palazzo Nardi, patiently rebuilt after the destruction of 1944. Finally, one cannot fail to mention the ancient Palazzo Angeli (from whose family descended the poet and humanist Pietro, known as the Bargeo), and the Renaissance palace with its façade in pietra serena) which was the seat of a literary academy in 1700, or Palazzo Mordini, whose rooms house a library and an extremely rich archive. And next to the palaces, the famous churches of Barga are all precious, from the smallest, as miniature, to the monumental Duomo, up there on top of the bastion that had the reputation of being impregnable. From its parvis, which is accessed by a bold staircase, you can enjoy an unforgettable view, but we will talk about it later.

Museum House of Giovanni Pascoli

Giovanni Pascoli, one of the most important Italian poet and classical scholar, loved Barga, he loved sitting in these countryside and admiring the landscape and it is here that the great poet died. The House Museum dedicated to Giovanni Pascoli is located on the Caprona Hill and was the house where the poet lived from 1895 to 1912. The building, however, was built a century earlier by the Cardosi Carrara family who chose it as their country residence. During the visit to the house museum you can see that everything has remained intact, the rooms, furniture, books, everything is stopped on April 06, 1912, the date on which the poet died. Inside the museum house you can also admire the manuscripts of Giovanni Pascoli and some frames that depict him in Messina, shortly before the earthquake of 1908 that devastated the city. Next to the villa there is the Chapel where the poet is buried.

Buying only one ticket you can visit both the Civic Museum and the Museum House of Pascoli, to book guided tours you can call the following number 0583 72471.

Chiesa del Santissimo Crocifisso (Church of the Most Holy Crucifix)

The Church of Santa Croce or of the Santissimo Crocifisso is one of the oldest in the city, it dates back to 1200, (the oldest after the Cathedral) when work began on its construction, although very little has remained of the original construction today, because over the years the building has been significantly modified. The building has a façade that dates back to 1500, where there is the large portal and two statues, one is certainly dedicated to St. John, the other depicts a woman, but the identity of this woman remain, still today, many doubts. Inside there is a beautiful wooden choir, of the mid-seventeenth century, which borders with the presbytery, and in the same period also belongs to the wooden altar carved and gilded, by Francesco Santini, from Borgo a Mozzano.

Church of the Santissima Annunziata

The Church of Santissima Annunziata is a religious building of the XVII century, inside which are the statues of the Annunciation and frescoes of the period and paintings like a Madonna with Child and Saints by the local artist Baccio Ciarpi. It took this name when the image of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary found its seat here. It is a simple Latin cross building with a large longitudinal nave and false columns resting on the walls. The facade has two overlapping orders of which the upper is crowned by a tympanum and decorated in elevation by two stone vases. In the choir, which is slightly raised, the large frescoes on the wall narrate the Marriage of the Virgin and the Presentation in the Temple of Jesus.

Church of Santa Elisabetta

The Church of Santa Elisabetta, is located in the city center, within the historic center attached to the convent of the Poor Clares, has, among other things, a beautiful Assumption Della Robbia and a remarkable wooden Crucifix of 1400. The convent was founded in the mid fifteenth century by Blessed Michele da Barga, from the convent of San Bernardino near Mologno, in order to welcome the children of the countryside who were destined by families to the cloister (not to marry them, conveniently equipped, thus avoiding the fragmentation of family wealth). At the end of 1700, with the leopoldine reform of religious orders, the cloister was removed and the convent was destined to the Conservatory, that is to female educandate, so the nuns, already silk weavers and embroiderers of sacred furnishings, took on the new role of pedagogues of the girls from Barga. After the unification of Italy, the Conservatory became a primary and complementary school, and therefore normal, "forge" - so said Giovanni Pascoli - "of the mountain women." The building in question is certainly worth a visit, if only for the cloister, the choir of the fifteenth century and the seventeenth-century paintings that are collected there.

Church of San Francesco

The Church of San Francesco, which is located just outside the medieval village of Barga, is from the same period as that of the Poor Clares and is also annexed to a convent, founded by Blessed Michele da Barga (Michele Turignoli). The church building, built between 1471 and 1490, consists of a simple rectangular plan with cross vaults, preceded by a small cloister. The latter leads into the church where there are four other Della Robbia terracottas, representing the Nativity of Jesus, the Stigmata of St. Francis and St. Andrew and St. Anthony Abbot, all attributable to Giovanni della Robbia, while the Assumption is from his school.

Loggia del Podestà

This palace dates back to 1300 and was once inhabited by the Podestà and the Commissioners who had the task of governing and maintaining order in the city. Barga was a city under the direct control of the Medici, therefore the Lords of Florence, sent here their officials to ensure political stability. In the basement of the Loggia there were prisons and you can also admire the beautiful hearing room. Very particular, on the external walls, are the units of measure that were used in Barga, it is the staio, the half staio and the arm barghigiano. Inside the palace, today, there is the Civic Museum, which allows you to know and relive the history of Barga. Inside the Museo Civico del Territorio di Barga it is possible to study the history of this city, starting from prehistoric times. A detailed section is dedicated to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Buying only one ticket you can visit both the Civic Museum and the Museum House of Pascoli, to book guided tours you can call the following number 0583 72471.

Theatre of Diffenti

The theatre of the Different represents one of Barga's historical and artistic paths. Here, in fact, on April 23, 1688, was born the Academy of Differenti, an art academy, which had the main task of staging shows of high culture. The academy was strongly desired and supported by the Medici of Florence, who made culture a strong point. In order to continue their mission, these academics decided to build the theatre, which was inaugurated on 25 July 1795. It was from this stage that Pascoli recited an oration in 1911 to promote the war in Libya. Even today, this museum hosts numerous theatrical performances throughout the year.

Territory museum Antonio Mordini

If you are curious about the various aspects of Barga's life, don't miss a visit to the Antonio Mordini Museum, opened in 1993, which documents with an educational exhibition, the paleontological aspects of the Serchio Valley, the archaeological aspects of the Barga area (Ligurian tombs and Etruscan bronzes) and the artistic aspects of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The first two rooms display the paleontological and archaeological fossil finds. Three other rooms are dedicated to the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance, themes of great importance for the important artistic implications of this period such as the Duomo, itself a large museum near the museum itself, the parish church of Loppia, the sacred furnishings. Going down to the old prison, recent studies have allowed to reconstruct the furnishing of a secret and torture room. Through a predetermined path, one can understand a past in which the way of conceiving and exercising justice was very different from the way it is today.

Via della Speranza, 6, 55051 Barga LU
Tel: 0583 72471
Opening hours:
1 June - 30 September: 10.00 - 12.30 and 14.30 - 17.00.
Open during the other months of the year by reservation.


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