The tradition of the Befana, the nice old lady who visits the children every year on the night between 5 and 6 January, is deeply felt throughout the Garfagnana and the Mid Serchio Valley. In Barga, the tradition is centuries-old and is even mentioned in the Statutes of 1366. There are many tributes dedicated to her, including the well-known songs of the Befana, called Canti di Questua, popular not only in Barga but also in all neighboring areas. Groups of children and adults disguised as witches go from house to house to sing and in return they are usually offered sweets, drinks or small gifts. In Barga, tradition has it that once the singing has finished, everyone goes to Piazza Angelio to gather around a large bonfire, form a circle and twirl around.
It was these traditional begging songs that inspired the adopted son of this land, Giovanni Pascoli, to compose one of his most touching poems, La Befana, in 1897:
The Befana comes,
comes from the mountains late at night.
How tired she is! It surrounds her
snow, frost and north wind ...
Later in the evening, following the songs and the bonfire, the Befana enters the scene riding a broom or a donkey to bring gifts to good children and coal to bad ones.
Then Befana receives visits from the children, as well as those who are older, in her little house in Pegnana on the mountain of Barghigiana. The old woman does not refuse the visits of little ones to gift a lovely sweet made using molds of all kinds of shapes such as animals, fish, flowers , rabbits, the sun or a heart. These are known as Befana biscuits that are made with shortcrust pastry and marzipan according to a recipe that has been handed down for years in bourgeois families and which differs from the more well-known befanotti.