Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 11, 2012

Barga, the most Scottish town in Italy

Approximately 60% of Barga’s inhabitants have relatives in the west of Scotland. Many residents emigrated in the early part of the 20th century to work in catering. In many cases their descendants have returned to live in this lovely hilltop town. It is quite strange to hear someone speaking Italian and then break into a broad Scottish accent.

The origins of Barga are unknown, but historical documents indicate that it was a fiefdom of Lombardy in the 8th century. In the 14th century the town joined the Republic of Florence, opening itself to attacks from Pisa and Lucca, which explains the design of the town. It is shaped like a walled castle with few entrances.

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The Porta Reale entrance is beside the car park on the road between Bagni di Lucca and Castelnuovo.

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This cute little Fiat was parked at the entrance. I don’t think it was small enough to make its way through the narrow streets of Barga.

All the paved streets lead to the ancient Cathedral, dedicated to San Cristoforo, built in the 11th century in the Romanesque style. That is where I headed first.

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The streets are narrow and steep.

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A bit of ancient Roman wiring.

Just before the church is the most beautiful house with a terrace garden.

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The cathedral keeps guard over the town.

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There is one last steep climb to the top.

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The view from the top is wonderful, especially in winter when there is snow on the mountains.

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Luckily, the church was open.

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The pulpit was designed in the 12th century by Guido Bignarelli.

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A 3.5 metre wooden statue of Saint Christopher dominates the church.

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There are beautiful stained glass windows.

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There is some impressive art.

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Bedside the church is a museum, which wasn’t open.

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I wandered back down the hill and found another church in a completely different style. the Chiesa del Santissimo Crocifisso is a 12th century structure that was completely remodelled in the 17th century.

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The view from the courtyard of this church was excellent too.

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Barga’s streets are steep and narrow and every now and then you come upon a pretty piazza. In winter there is not a lot happening, but I saw lots of cafes and restaurants just waiting for some warm weather to open their terraces for outdoor dining.

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The Teatro dei Differenti was built in 1688 and renewed in 1795.

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The postmen here need special skills. There is no way I would be driving the van up these streets.

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Barga is a beautifully kept town. You could wander for hours in the maze of streets.

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I loved this little decoration on the side of a building. It was no bigger than my hand.

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I stopped to buy some fabric in a tiny shop where I met Licia who told me she has worked here most of her life and lives next door to the shop.

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There is a new section of Barga which is also lovely. I’ll have to go back.

I’m sorry I won’t be here in summer for the annual Fish and Chip Festival in July/August.


Responses

  1. It looks lovely and the fish and chips festivals sounds like something we should check out!
    Rene

    • Apparently the first and last day of the Fish and Chip festival are the best……this came from a local.

  2. What a sympathetic post! Loved it Debra!

  3. Great post and beautiful photos, Debra! We love Barga and we go there quite often. There is a lovely shop right at the entrance through Porta Reale that sells an excellent variety of local food products, wines and olive oil. I always buy something there, particularly the chestnut tagliatelle, which I serve with a sauce of duck in orange sauce (the famous French “canard à l’orange” is really a Tuscan dish, introduced to France by Catherine of Medici’s chefs).
    There is also a very good antiques shop that has some fantastic pieces.
    We are lucky to have Barga only a few miles away from Bagni.

    • Chestnut tagliatelle sounds delicious.

  4. Every aspect of this post and this place is beautiful. I’d love to go there. I’m very fond of these Italian towns that sit up high on have views on all sides. It’s just stunning…

    • The views from the top of the hill are gorgeous!

  5. This is absolutely enchanting Debra. Why oh why did I book for only two weeks in BdL?

    • You will be able to see quite a lot in 2 weeks.

  6. Thank you for making the climb for those magnificent mountain views. I am fascinated by the fabric store. Is that a “yard stick’ on the counter?

    • Yes, it is a yard stick. They are used a lot here.

  7. What a lovely town Barga looks like. I imagine myself wandering around the narrow alleys of the town for hours and snapping some pictures of the little things that make this town interesting.

    • It is easy to spend hours in these places.Each one is different and has fascinating things to see.

  8. I so love seeing Italy thru your eyes (and lens). Thank-you for this inspiring tour of Barga!

    • I will have to go back when spring is further along and the flowers are everywhere.

  9. What a lovely and interesting post! The Scottish connect, the steep and narrow passageways, the simplicity of the gorgeous church and, of course, some small detail to charm…I always love the ‘jaw dropping’ elements you bring to life for us to share. It’s a very nice gift, GRAZIE!

    • Barga is a charming town. I have been several times and find something new each time.

  10. Thank you for a lovely post and great pictures. You have inspired me to start getting in better shape right now or I will never be able to cope with all of the climbing in Barga. We spend a good deal of time there when we are back to Bagni and it is definitely one of our favorite places in the area. Your pictures are wonderful.

    • Barga is fairly steep, but there is no rush to the top.

  11. What a beautiful town… Fascinated me. Your photographs are so beautiful too, I wished to be there too… The snowy mountains… the narrow streets, the sculptures, squares, houses… I am almost gone into these photographs… Thank you dear Debra, your photography really dragging us into this voyage too… Have a nice day, with my love, nia

    • Barga is a lovely town to visit. In a few weeks the restaurants will start to open for the summer season and the village will come to life.

  12. Barga looks lovely your images as always are lovely. The yellow fiat is super cute.

    • I love those old Fiats. There are lots of them around here.

  13. We spent a day in Barga a few years ago and adored it…such a great hike to the top and the view was dynamite – clear day, could see forever! Bought farro to bring home, and of course had gelato!

    I think that same yellow Fiat was parked there then… :)

    • How lovely that the Fiat is a resident!

  14. OMG! The view is so stunning it nearly took my breath away. Wow! Thanks for sharing these incredible images.
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    • It was a perfect day to be at the very top of Barga.

  15. Ciao Deb
    Great photography. Definately on out “to do” map
    Alan e Carolyna

  16. Reblogged this on emilypoodles and commented:
    i want to go here

  17. That little face in cut into the stone wall that you liked so much is called a ‘scacciaguai’ and was used to banish troubles. ‘Scacciare’ means to send away, and ‘guai’ are troubles. That particular one is on the wall of the most elegant restaurant in Barga, called Scacciaguai. The atmosphere is lively, the food is good and you can watch the chef cook your meal on a video screen in the dining room.

    • I would love to try the restaurant soon. It was closed the day I was there. It look great as I was peering in with my nose pressed against the glass.

  18. Superb presentation of Barga. I remember my Italian friend showing me a small building in the church grounds which we would call the “weights and measures offices ” which had one metre marked in a stone ledge and holes carved out of the stone ledge which would hold one litre and were used to check that Olive oil , Wine etc.were sold in the correct quantities . All those years ago ,unbelievable. Thak you for the reminder of a great visit

    • We love Barga. We will be back in spring for another look.

  19. In 7 years of living in Italy (and three spent hanging around in Tuscany I never heard of this wonderful place. It’s on my visit list for the next time I’m there.

    • Barga is a lovely town, both the old and the new parts are great.

  20. You’ve captured some of my favourite things here Debra. That austere church interior for one. Plus I would love to behold that gigantic St Christopher!

    • St Christopher is very impressive

  21. What beautiful photos Debra. I’m putting this on my list of places to visit (preferably on fish-and-chips day!) What was the meaning of the cross with the hammer and tongs on it do you think?

    • I don’t know the significance of those things. I was hoping someone else would.

      • They’re some of the symbols of the Passion Story, the crucifixion of Jesus. The hammer was used to nail him to the cross, the pincers to remove the nails and take him down. It’s all explained here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arma_Christi.

      • I knew somebody would have an explanation, thank you!

  22. I wish I’d known about that Scottish connection in Barga. I could have boasted about the Tulloch heritage.

  23. What an adorable little town. And I’d love to hear a Scottish accent in such a place.. How beautiful. Thank you!

    • I think Scottish accents are lovely.

  24. Thank you so much for “my” morning stroll; beautiful town, beautiful photos!!

    • I am hoping to photograph lots of the mountain towns and villages.

  25. Very interesting Debra “60% of residents come from the west of Scotland”. The best ice cream and fish and chip shops are owned by Italians in the west, Edinburgh also has a large Italian community, mostly owning food shops, restaurants and ice cream shops.

    Barga looks a beautiful place, another must visit, one day.

    • The Scottish/Italian connection is very strong.

  26. Lovely place… I have not heard of it, but has just gotten into my to-visit list.
    Nice ambiance you captured… fine pictures, as usual.

    • Barga is a lovely town. I will go back in a few weeks when there are spring flowers.

  27. Debra what day were you in Barga? I was there this Saturday and the 500 was in exactly the same spot! Were you there the same day? Or maybe it’s always parked there to look cute and pose! I took some almost identical photos to you intending for my blog, including the 500 of course and the little face carving-great minds think alike! But you have taken many more and better, I will wait a while before posting mine!
    The fish and chip festival is on every night for 3 weeks in July and is always well attended, we’ve even been when it’s pouring rain and still many there! It’s great fun, they have live bands and dancing after everyone has eaten.

    • I was there last Thursday so the Fiat must be a regular. How funny that you took the same photos! Barga is a great place to visit.

  28. Barga, I love this place. I spent a month here in 1973 for an opera workshop for American students. I had no idea about the Scottish connection, but I remember this place for the amazing fiori fritti, the gelato shop we all visited every night after dinner, and the owner of the bar/restaurant we frequented who broke out into operatic arias at the drop of the hat. And the very, very steep streets. I featured a painting of the loggia of a house where I lived in one of my posts (http://composerinthegarden.com/2012/01/02/on-being-versatile/ “the last painting”) I love this town almost as much as Lucca and Florence :-)

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post!

  29. I’ll take note of the comment about the first and last day of the Fish and Chip festival. We visited it last year on an average Tuesday and it was still brilliant!

    • I haven’t been to the Fish an Chip Festival, this delight has escaped me. It sounds like fun.

  30. amazing amazing pictures. we might visit this summer too Florence, so we’ll see where we can wander…

    • You must come to this area, there is so much to see and do here.

  31. [...] Barga – the most scottish town in Italy, by Bagna di Luca and beyond [...]

  32. Reblogged this on Our House in Tuscany and commented:

    Barga is a great place to visit and is only about 25 minutes from Vergemoli

  33. [...] Barga [...]

  34. Beautiful pictures of Barga which I have always wanted to visit. My mother was born there and her family must have been part of the 60% that went to Scotland in the early 1900s. Her family name was Guidi and the family had Ice cream parlours and Seaside cafesin the North East of England.

    Thank you for letting me see mymothers birthplace.

    • Barga is a lovely town, I hope you visit one day.

  35. Spent a week in Barga June 2013. Lived like a local, shopping for the daily food, doing laundry and hanging it to dry, walking up and down the streets, wine in the piazza, dinner at the outside tables. Enchanting! The ability to buy locally produced goods was my favorite part. Stayed at a vacation rental by owner just below the Duomo (yea, a hike but sooo worth it). Villa Speranza was the perfect accommodation so I could cook for my family with the local groceries (my 18 year old son loved going to the meat shop to get dinner fixings). Evenings on the terrace of the Villa watching the sunset still brings a smile to my face. Other than travel days, our rental car was happily parked half the time as we explored on foot this wonderful Medieval Hilltown.

    • If you have the time, that is exactly what you should do on an Italian village holiday…relax and live like a local. Barga is an excellent place to do that.

      • We stumbled across Barga while house hunting in Tuscany & fell in love with the town & the people, they are so friendly. The scotish conection is wonderful. The place I hear is so full of life during the height of the summer months. We have been there 4 times already this year, enjoying the place, food & friendliness of the people. We loved the place so much we have bought a lovely Tuscan town house 2mins from Barga in Ponte di Catagnana: looking at some of your pictures & comments it makes me feel happy as it reminds me how lovely Barga is & I truly know I bought in the right place – thanks Debra

      • How wonderful to have a place near Barga. The whole area is fascinating. We bought in Bagni di Lucca 10 years ago and we love our time in Italy.

  36. […] nothing to do with Barga, or working in a fabric shop. If you’re curious, you can find the post here. It does though, have a little bit to do with travel, or maybe a […]

  37. We were there this year. Indeed it is a very nice town with amazing views on mountains. Seemed quite deserted when we have visited it. I guess not too many tourists are coming there in June.

    • I am surprised there weren’t more people around in June. I would have thought this was well into the tourist season.

      • Perhaps there are more people coming in the second part of June when schools end an in August and July. If there are slopes ready for skiing more people might be coming in Winter as well.

        It seems this part of Italy, including Bagni di Lucca, is greatly underrated and it seems neglected in regards to possible tourist attractions. . There could be so much more done. Maybe it is because Italy has already so many amazing places to offer that it is difficult to promote all of them.

      • Summer was late coming to Bagni di Lucca this year. It didn’t really get warm until the second half of June. It is up to these communities to promote themselves, and they don’t have any money to do this.

  38. We were in Barga in June of 2013 and the Little Fiat was in the Fosso. Different days, different spots but still there. Such a warm and welcoming town. We stayed up near the Duomo in a VRBO (vacation rental by owner) property called Villa Speranza. It is a renovated convent and a wonderful apartment. Our hosts, Carla and Anthony, were fabulous!!! I especially enjoyed shopping the local food stores and cooking with such fresh, in season produce. Fabuloso !!!

    • Speranza means hope…what a lovely name for a villa. Barga is a particularly lovely town. I’m not surprised you had a great time there. I hope you come back one day.

      • Debra, if all goes as planned with my husbands retirement, we will be back in Barga in September/October of 2014 for a few weeks. We want to visit in fall and enjoy a quieter, slower Barga.

  39. […] is the most Scottish town in Italy. Click here to find out […]


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