a walking tour of Barga

Marian Parsonsa slice of life, Travel28 Comments

On the afternoon of our first full day in Barga, we had the pleasure of doing a walking tour led by Keane, a man who moved from the UK 30 years ago and has made Barga his home.  We didn’t get to do this tour last year, so I was excited to learn more about this ancient walled town.  The main focus of the tour would be visiting the 1000-year-old Duomo at the top of the hill.  It’s a Christian church with a pagan history where the steeple bells are still rung by hand.

Keane took us the long way up the hill through the winding streets of Barga.  One of my favorite things about these old European towns is the narrow streets.  I love the way the light falls into them creating sharp shadows and bringing the warm colors of the plaster to life.

I love the little passageways that seem to pull and whisper, urging you to explore, even if it means a trip up a timeworn staircase.

At points of interest, Keane would stop and tell us stories that have been passed down through the years.  Each story would end with the smile and a shrug, “But these are Tuscan stories…”  It is unknown which stories are true and which ones are folklore.

The Duomo of Barga was perhaps the most interesting church we were able to tour while in Europe.  It’s not the grandest, or the biggest, or the most beautiful, but it represents a mixture of history.  There are symbols on this church that are Viking, Nordic, pagan, medieval, and Christian.  Keane has spent years studying the symbols and some are still a mystery.

The symbols by the church door, for example, have still not been translated…

Keane walked us to the church, showing us points of interest.  This is still an active church and I just imagined what it would be like to hear a choir of voices filling the space.


From the church grounds, the view was spectacular…

We meandered back down the hill and Keane stopped to tell us the story of World War II Buffalo soldiers who sacrificed their lives by guiding their own bombers to an enemy target.  This story was later incorporated in Spike Lee’s The Miracle at St. Anna.  In Keanes’s opinion, the story was not represented completely or accurately and he lamented that the story may not be told in film again since it’s already been done.

We ended the tour at Keane’s studio.  He is an artist in addition to being the local newspapermen and custodian of the community-built library.  I found his life of art and research fascinating.  He picks a passion project and works on it for a couple of years, before moving onto the next project.  One of his passion projects was putting QR code tiles on notable buildings throughout Barga.  He was even escorted by the local priest through the town on a motorcycle in order to have adequate permission to stick QR code tiles to 1000-year-old churches.

Seeing old, beautiful places is a feast for the eyes, but hearing the stories of the place, told by people who love it and call it home, is nourishing for the soul…

a walking tour of Barga

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28 Comments on “a walking tour of Barga”

    1. Patty, it’s part of a poetry called L’ora di Barga by Giovanni Pascoli, one of Italy’s greatest poets.

      It says:
      Tu dici, È l’ora, tu dici, È tardi,
      voce che cadi blanda dal cielo.
      Ma un poco ancora lascia che guardi
      l’albero, il ragno, l’ape, lo stelo,
      cose ch’han molti secoli o un anno
      o un’ora, e quelle nubi che vanno.

  1. Thank you, thank you! I so enjoyed that little tour and your comments. What are QR tiles? I assume it indicates an age? Loved this post. Glad your mom is there. Hugs!

    1. A QR code is a digital code that can be scanned with an iphone and that code will take you to a website. in this case, these codes take you to a page with historic info about the building.

  2. We were so lucky to have Keene as our tour guide. He was so knowledgeable and it was wonderful to hear the stories from the local families. It was one of my favorite walking tours ever in Italy. Love your pictures, still working on mine! ❤️

  3. Great photos — I see what you mean by the light and shadows. Not that I travel much (to my chagrin) I am always, always enthralled by doors, gates, windows and gardens. Hope your recovery is swift.

  4. very pretty quaint and interesting till that camera on the building in the walkway,,,,, brings ya to the modern age,,,,,,would be a wonderful trip to go back and see all THAT beauty

  5. You should read Miracle at St Anna by James McBride. Better than the movie!!

    Fabulous photos!

  6. A QR code is sort of similar to a bar code that we find on product packaging. The QR code is a white square with black squiggles in on it. If you hold your smart phone over the QR square or QR tile, you can get information about the product. Apparently Barga was the first medieval town in Tuscany to put up tiles with QR codes on all their main buildings. You can then use your smart phone to find out information about each one. If you google Barga QR tiles you will find an article all about it. Sounds fantastic!

  7. Marian, or anyone else who knows, where is Barga? I know it’s Italy, but what’s the closest city? It looks so much like Assissi.

      1. Thanks. Does it remind you of Assissi? If you go back to Italy again, try to hit La Spezia. It is so beautiful and there’s a ferry that takes you to all five Cinque Terra cities. It’s incredible.

  8. I have been to Barga! Your pictures took me back to this beautiful place and I can honestly say that it is one of the highlights of my entire life in travel. Should any of your readers go, I do hope they visit Saccaiguai restaurant for delicious food and more local village lore.

    1. Love Scacciaguai! It’s fun to watch the closed-circuit cameras in the kitchen. There is a cute little table for 2 outside on the balcony, really special. It is only 2 doors down from Casa Cordati where we did our meetups!

  9. My parents were born in Barga. My cousin and his family live there. My father and I were there the month of June 2019. It is a beautiful and historic town.

  10. Marion, i am semi new to your Blog. Looking at your photos was seriously mesmerizing. I could almost imagine being there. What a treat. Thank you

  11. Gorgeous pictures! I would love to go to Italy again, it has been over 25 years!

    I am enjoying your blog very much, Marian.

  12. Oh my goodness what a beautiful city and so rich in its buildings, scenery and people! Thanks for sharing! Hope your recovery is coming along well!

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