Barga is a small town with ancient traditions going back as far as the Langobardic era of the Early Middle Ages (6th – 8th century) and was established in an evocative position between the sloping hills of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines and the majestic amphitheatre known as the Apuan Alps. Only in Barga can you find the variety of colours, sweetness of climate, notable works of art and lively hospitality joined together with the beauty of the mountains.
On a rocky spur of the mountain range lies a castle that overlooks Barga’s cityscape. It exemplifies the typical structure of a medieval village and is surrounded by a perimeter wall that is accessible via three gates: Porta Reale, Porta Macchiaia and Porta di Borgo. When walking through the intricate web of alleys and piazzas preserved throughout the course of centuries, you can discover the quirky irregularities of the ancient architecture almost everywhere you look. If you follow via del Pretorio alleys and roads on both the left and right open up before you, where you glimpse tatters of medieval buildings until, going beyond the Piazza Ser Barghesano, you walk out in front of the beautiful vista that is the Cathedral of San Cristoforo.
It is worth noticing in particular the Conservatorio di Santa Elisabetta - originally a monastery of the Clarisse and founded by Beato Michele Turignoli in the 15th century. Then in 1788 it was transformed by Pietro Leopoldo, Grand Duke of Tuscany, into a Conservatory for educating young girls. Its impressive rectangular design was built with three levels, completely surrounding an immense cloister, fitted with extravagant cisterns. Around here, you’ll come across the original walls of Barga’s castle, constructed int eh 16th century. Amongst the furnishings inside the small church belonging to the monks, you can see a beautiful altarpiece of Robbianan design alongside a large 5th-Crucifix and two 6th-century paintings.
The awe-inspiring size of the Cathedral can only be properly understood upon arriving at the top of the castle. Its asymmetrical midpoint is framed by the rooftops of the historic city centre and, more distantly - past the green of the hills punctuated by hamlets and farmsteads – the magnificent crown of the Apuan mountain range.
For literature enthusiasts, only four kilometres from Barga you can discover the hamlet of Castelvecchio Pascoli, where the poet Giovanni Pascoli resided for several years. It is possible to visit the house where he lived with his sisters, and Pascoli even dedicated the memo in the anthology of Canti di Castelvecchio to this hamlet.
Although Barga and all the surrounding areas are an exciting destination throughout the year (for different reasons) it can be a good idea to plan a trip during the summer, possibly even during one of the typical festivals that occur in the area during this time – like the ‘Festa della Piazzette’ or ‘Fish&Chips’ – events where you will certainly have no reason to complain about the portions (of neither food nor alcohol).