Down my valley and a little way up another one is the beautiful town of Barga, surrounded by a large number of villas some of which are very elegant. There is a modern new town which has most of the shops and offices and sporting facilities but we are not concerned with it here.
The old town on a hill is the beautiful Barga that I always take my visitors to, often on Saturday where we park in the new town and troll through the Saturday market before climbing a rather steep cobbled hill to the top of old Barga.
After the Second World War many of the men from my village and the surrounding villages went to Western Australia to start a new life – to Perth, which they call Pert. I’ve mentioned before how one of my official documents has Perth as my place of birth, not because it’s true but because Australia is the place I was born and someone at the local Comune only knows Perth so accorded me with it at my birthplace. But from Barga they all went to Scotland and even now you can hear the odd Scottish lilt in the shops and marketplace. Not so many years back one of the three or four shoe shops in new Barga had an old lady always in it, probably the mother of the owner, who spoke Scottish English to visitors. I imagine she has passed away now as its some years since I have seen her there.
Barga has a cultural life like no other town in the region although there are lots of cultural events nearby. Out of my window right now I can see Camporgiano across the river which has a world famous folkloric group, and Castlenuovo, the region’s premier town has a wonderful theatre which was restored a few years ago.
The Opera House and a lovely building opposite
But in Barga there is a tiny round opera theatre like a mini La Scala that one morning, in 2001, we ventured into when he heard singing and saw an open door. There was a maestro up the front of the theatre and one by one hopefully got onto the stage and auditioned. We were spellbound at the quality of the voices heard in this tiny town far from a Big City, and enchanted. Mr Maestro turned around and asked if there were any more to audition and rather shamefaced we quietly got up and scuttled out.
So they have opera, and they have a summer jazz festival and they have lots of arts. And they have had, for many years, quite a population of Brits who obviously like the cultural aspects of this quaint town.
My absolute favourite is the 17th century marble duomo of St Christopher perched on the top of the hill, followed by the lovely lunch menu at Ricardo’s Osteria in the square on the way down where I love introducing my friends to the delights of lardo on bread – yes lard! It’s heavenly!
It’s a very photogenic town, so without further ado…please enjoy some of my favourites.
I love this old wall with its Macelleria – butcher’s shop sign, now gentrified and painted out
And the elaborate marble pulpit with a nasty lion trapping a man on one of its feet
Views from the Duomo
My friend Connie and I at the beautiful entrance of marble steps
Santa Croce Church/Chiesa di Santssimo Crocifisso
Barga is just one of the beautiful towns around my valley. There are many, smaller mainly, but perched on hilltops to accord a wonderful vista of surrounding valleys and peaks. Each in their own way is worth a visit, whether to see the lovely stone houses, or the red geraniums overflowing from their baskets, or to hear the church bells or drink from the water fountains. It is a special part of Italy, remote from the tourist trail, still, quiet, ever beautiful, and for 27 years my home. I have nothing else in my life has been there for 27 years except this place, and almost nothing I love more, except my wonderful Hugo.
Until next time….and as of tonight I have only 3 more sleeps on this trip….
www.ItalianExperience.com.au – should you be interested in renting my place maybe next summer