Barga is an Italian municipality with approximately 9900 inhabitants in the province of Lucca in Tuscany. It is the most densely populated area of the Serchio valley and, due to its historical, artistic, civic and demographic importance, it was given the title of City in 1933. Its various accolades include the Italian Touring Club’s orange flag, Cittaslow, and being one of the “most beautiful towns in Italy”, all of which are prestigious tourism awards.
The origin of the town’s name is uncertain. Archaeological finds attest to the presence of a Ligurian and Apuan civilization in pre-Christian times. In the eighth century Barga was a Longobard feud, before becoming part of the Tuscan marquisate and receiving sought-after recognition as a free town, first by Matilde di Canossa and then by the emperor Frederick I, Barbarossa.
In the 13th century it tried to free itself various times from Lucca, until after the death of Castruccio Castracani, Lord of Lucca, in 1328, when the inhabitants of Barga voluntarily placed themselves under the rule of the Florentine republic, with whom they remained until the unification of Italy.
The relationship with Florence is particularly visible in the art, culture and language. The entire inhabited area of the town was protected by a wall of approximately 1.5 km in length, with three gates: Reale or Mancianella, Macchiaia or Latria, and Borgo (demolished in the last century). Important dignitaries at the service of the Grand Duchy passed through Barga: architects such as the Ammannati, painters such as Giovanni Battista Tempesti and ceramic artists such as Della Robbia and followers.
The unification of Italy caused serious economic damage to Barga which led to mass emigration to countries such as France, Germany, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom (especially Scotland).
In Castelvecchio, the poet Giovanni Pascoli, spent the most tranquil years of his life until his death in 1912. The house became a national museum: Pascoli House Museum, it still retains the spaces and furniture left by the poet.
In the final stages of World War II, Barga and the neighbouring territories suffered huge losses and damage given that the Gothic line, a German defensive front, passed through this area.