barga quietly captivates

Marian Parsonsa slice of life, Travel63 Comments

When Dana, the owner of Inspired in Tuscany, first pitched the idea of a creative retreat to me, she sent along some pictures of Tuscany to woo me to that beautiful little corner of the world that seems stuck in time.  I honestly thought the pictures were stock photos from a travel website.  Truly.  They were just too beautiful to be believed.  But, I came to see with my own eyes that she sent me legitimate pictures (that she took herself ) of the actual town where we were going to stay and find rest and inspiration – Barga.

It’s a place that is so perfect in its quintessential Tuscan look and quaintness that it smells of a corner of Disney’s Epcot Center or a movie set.  But it’s not.  It’s a real town nestled in the rolling mountains on the upper west side of Italy’s boot.

It’s a place with a town square that bustles late at night with children playing soccer and riding bikes while adults casually supervise and engage in conversation on the surrounding benches.

It’s a place where you can purchase a gelato for €1 from an Italian girl who speaks English with a Scottish accent.

The narrow streets are populated with couples who were probably born, raised, and married in Barga and now walk the steep hills slowly with canes or by leaning on each other.

In contrast, the young and strong carry loads and walk at an impossibly fast pace on the inclines.  One young teenage boy effortlessly ran past us once as we were inching breathlessly down a steep alley.  Show off, punk.  

The buildings, that look so magical to us are just their homes, businesses, and schools.  And, just as we do, they plant flowers and sweep the steps and bolster the charm even further.

The vibrant paint colors change in the varrying light that is cast on them.  They look pale under a gray, overcast sky, dappled under the mid-day sun, and almost glow as the warm light of the golden hour creeps across their walls.

As you climb up the hill toward the oldest part of the city, you are treated to glimpses into the maze contained within the ancient walls that once fortified the city during feuds that were common between towns in this region.

An aqueduct,  built in the 15th century, still stands, spanning a small dale.

A phone booth, obsolete even in a medieval town, was turned into a small library that is frequented by locals.

On a sloped street leading up to the arched entrance to Barga, there sits an apricot-colored hardware store with striped awnings.  Handmade baskets and ceramic address numbers invite visitors and locals alike to have a closer look inside to see what other tempting goods might be for sale.


The arched gate to the city stands, impossibly old.  An Italian flag is perched where a torch was once held to light the entrance.  The coat of arms for the city is set in stone at the apex of the arch.  I wonder how many young men spent hours leaning on those small, stone window frames, watching for danger.


Now, only an orange tabby stands sentry on a stack of newspapers.

One look down the narrow streets of Barga and you understand why Italian cars are so small.  (And yes, they drive on these streets!  There are actually places where the stone in some walls has been chipped away to accommodate the side mirrors on cars!)

Within the walls, that are as old as the 9th century, there are homes and restaurants, art galleries, theaters, and an opera house…

There are secret passageways…

…and stairs…

…and doors…

…and gardens…

There are delightful views around each corner – stone steps sagging with age…

…patriotism displayed through flags that flutter in the breezes trapped between the buildings…

…and a cat taking a lengthy and very public bath in the middle of the street.

And, joining all of the snaking alleys and corridors…

…are the piazzas.  The claustrophobic building walls part and the sun streams into the open courtyards.

Most of them are populated with restaurants and cafes.

They are run by stereotypical Italian men with handlebar mustaches and plaid vests, who act like they are grumpy, but then insist on getting a kiss from all of the women.

They are run by mother/daughter teams who spend each day baking bread and rolling out pasta to cut, cook, and serve for dinner each night.

And, if you are fortunate enough to enter a building and look out a window, you see the more intimate side of the residents of Barga.  Laundry strung from window to window, hanging out to dry and women leaning out to check on them.

Planter gardens and tables set for alfresco dining are situated on small, rooftop decks, with just an umbrella or awning for privacy.

And you are treated to views of the mountains and the expanse of sky that meets them over the crumbling terracotta tile rooftops.

Paris was grand, with all of its museums, stately buildings, ornate bridges and an ambience created by a old city that offers it all.  In contrast, Barga was a little jewel box.  A sleepy town with delightful secrets that can only be discovered if you open the lid and see it from the right angles or in the best light.

Paris wows you in the big moments, Barga quietly captivates in the small.


barga quietly captivates

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63 Comments on “barga quietly captivates”

  1. Oooooo Marian! Were I a resident of Barga, I wouldn’t know better if I should kiss you or kick you. Your lovely, magical description of this tiny town surely will bring visitors in a never ending stream. You are a gifted writer, seer, dreamer, and doer and it’s always a pleasure to view the world through your artist’s eyes. Thanks for another great post!

  2. This post is wonderful. I am awestruck by the pictures and the wonderful coziness of this beautiful place. I have lived in Germany and loved it so much and these pictures bring back those feelings. Thank you again for sharing all of this with all of us. It sets my mind to dreaming and is so relaxing. I know these memories will inspire you in all kinds of directions.

  3. Fabulous post. I enjoyed following you on Instagram and now to read and see the beautiful town in Italy. Thank you for sharing your journey. Travel is a marvelous experience for our sensory and intellect.

  4. I haven’t commented yet since all of your Paris posts, but WOW, I am SO enjoying them. This little Italian town and all of your observations are truly marvelous. I will likely never travel, so seeing these things vicariously is a goldmine.

  5. I love this so much, I actually had a lump in my throat while reading….mostly because you were able to feel what I have felt for almost 20 years since I was brought to this lovely town. Your photos tell such a great story, thanks for sharing <3

  6. My daughter had the privilege of visiting Italy this past April and fell in love with the people, the architecture, and the country as a whole. But her favorite spot was Barga! I hope that maybe someday I will be fortunate enough to experience this beautiful little haven in person. But in the meantime, the photos are absolutely enchanting! Thank you for sharing and bringing us a little bit of Barga!

  7. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful travel experience. Your artists eyes are a gift to your followers. Love your blog and the journies you take us on.

  8. Hi Marian
    So enjoying your travels. I live in Ireland 5 -6 months of a year….currently there and truly recognize those narrow streets and hidden passageways. Oh so happy to let JOHN drive these streets…people park on the road with their car mirrors turned in against the car…smile. Look forward to your upcoming pictures and blogs


  9. I love it! and the “public” bath I am almost certain you meant…but not totally sure because both work. 😉

    1. Oh my gosh! So funny. Yes, public. My mom, my proofreader failed me. 🙂 It’s fixed now.

  10. What Becky Delson said! Absolutely captivating writing even without the photos. But those brought it all to living color. I feel like I’ve been there, and yet I want to go “again!” 🙂

  11. I returned from Italy a month ago and I’m still dreaming of moving there. I love how they reuse instead of tearing down. We visited Rome, Florence, Venice, Sienna, Luca, Piza and Cortona….all charming and full of history.

  12. We have greatly enjoyed your photos of Barga today! You write beautifully. We were wondering about the “batons” (for lack of a better word) which seem to be positioned on most of the buildings at an angle. Do you by any chance know what they are? We also noticed the steel tie-rods which are pretty commonplace, I guess, on many of these older buildings in Europe.

    1. Those are supports for the buildings and there are so many because the area is prone to earthquakes.

  13. Your pictures brought back memories of myself as a young navy wife bride in 1962 stationed in Naples, Italy. Lived in the garden apt of an old villa overlooking the bay. Also looked at an apt. in a castle right on the bay but I didn’t know how to drives so I had to depend on a bus line. Anyway, we had a ’57 chevy
    and my ex would travel down those narrow street from the top of the ridge right down into the city traveling along those very narrow ways. It is amazing that we never had an accident or hurt anyone.Sold it for $200 when we left to some Italians and they really thought they were in heaven.

    1. Yes! This town has strong ties to Scotland, so I’m sure that’s where the phone booth originated.

  14. the balconies, arches, and laundry lines gave my heart a squeeze. the barga palette is made of such calming light-filled hues! what a wonderful place! so timeless.

    i missed it … did you grab some of those ceramic numbers?

  15. BRAVO! Marian, You are so awesome in everything you do, but this… this, is your true calling! The power you have in your written word, well, it is nothing if not a masterpiece. You are like a Beatrix Potter, but so much better! You make a, not so often reader, want to read!! More, more, I say…lol
    Well done my friend, well done! 🙂

  16. WOW! I have followed your blog for years and always love them. But, Paris and now Barga are just spectacular. Amazing writing and photography. I also wondered what the metal bars attached to the side of buildings are for.

    1. Those are supports for the buildings and are so numerous because it’s an area that is prone to earthquakes.

  17. And my husband wonders why Tuscany calls my name! You did an awesome job of taking us on a tour. And that grumpy guy in the vest sure reminds me of said husband, only mine is Sicilian 🤔

  18. Marian,
    I think you could have a 2nd or 3rd career as a photographer, yours are lovely. Almost felt I was along for the ride!!

  19. I’ve been to Paris and various Italian cities on many occasions, but I have truly enjoyed revisiting these places with you as my guide. Your photos and stories have been just wonderful, and have inspired me to hurry back.

  20. Even the metal rods are decorative and seem decorative for something so utilitarian! I loved the well-trodden paths in the grassways. Oh my, I would love to explore inside those beautiful structures. Enchanted with it all and grateful for your almost putting us there along with you in your telling of it.

  21. So many said it already and I agree…great job, fabulous pictures, your writing combined with all that is amazing. Thank you. Really want to go to Tuscany now!

  22. Beautifully written & photographed Marian; can’t wait to see some of these scenes captured in your paintings! I enjoyed my trips to Italy more than France; Paris was fabulous but the more rustic beauty of Italy really inspires me. Please keep these great posts of your trip coming, seems like we all are really loving them!

  23. Oh my those pictures and your description of them are just dreamy! I may be made to fly one day and go tour Europe!

  24. This has been a wonderful trip into your trip!!! Love how you tell the stories and show just the right pictures.
    Be still my heart…the way you ended Paris vs Barga…….Bellissimo!!!

    Also. LOVE your new sidebar picture. Bangs were made for you!!! Good length too. Very young (not that you are old)
    and hip looking!!!

  25. Marian, thank you for sharing your adventure! I could almost feel the warm sunshine and hear the murmurs of the people. The photographs were lovely. I love Italy and the textures of the vistas. Welcome home.

  26. Your beautiful description is captivating. It makes me want to put my house up for sale and move Barga!

  27. I am lucky to say I’ve been to Italy three times. Each time, when I get out and about, Italy feels like a warm blanket has just been wrapped around me. Every inch of it is stunning! You certainly captured Italy, Marian.

  28. Your photos capture so many paint worthy frames! Are you going to,paint images from your trip? Will images from another place find value on homeland canvases?

  29. Your descriptions of the beautiful little village was so perfect and captivating! Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us.

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  31. Marian, you are truly a gifted woman…your photos and your descriptive writing are absolutely wonderful! My dream place to go has been Tuscany ever since I watched the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” (many times!). And….your pictures just made me feel as if I was there with you…..walking those streets, seeing the laundry hanging out, the mountains in the distance…OMG, breathtaking…just breathtaking! Ahhh, sweet peacefulness….Thank you, just Thank you…

  32. Thanks for the gorgeous walk through Barga, Marian! I sure miss being there. It was my absolute favorite part of our trip – well, that, and painting Giordano’s furniture. 🙂

  33. . Shut The Front Door! What wonderful passages welcoming you around every corner. You’re photos enlighten my every tactical sense.

  34. Reading through your post brought memories of my two weeks in Italy flooding back. I stayed with a group of friends – we rented a large villa just outside of Tivoli. The nearby villages were soooo old – we found them on the painted maps in the Vatican museums that date from the 1600s.

    Every morning we drove up into the nearest village (they were all perched on the mountain tops), parked the car in the piazza and foraged for breakfast. Purchasing warm bread baked in wood fired ovens that needed the ash brushed off the bottom was magical.

    Actually, EVERYTHING was magical. It truly was like going back in time. I would return in a heartbeat. Thanks.

  35. I’ve never been abroad, but following your travels is the next best thing. Barga is SO utterly charming with its narrow streets, perfectly imperfect buildings, lovely colors, old shutters, sloping paths and steps … Looks like a step back in time. Thanks Marian!

  36. Once again, beautifully photographed and beautifully written ! I would love to see you paint some these stunning photos.

  37. Marian,
    You could easily turn this trip to Europe into a book on it’s own. Your writing skills, even without the pictures, take me there. Here are two of my favorites from your descriptions: “And you are treated to views of the mountains and the expanse of the skies that meets them over the crumbling terra cotta tile rooftops.” “In contrast, Barga was a little jewel box. A sleepy town with delightful secrets that you only be discovered if you open the lid and see it from the right angles or in the best light.”

    I am so very glad that you had this opportunity to go to all these beautiful places and see all this and meet people then share in such a beautiful way all of it with all of us.

  38. Oh, you have such a way with words and photos! You are a true artist – with paint and words and photos. Your posts make me want to walk beside you and learn how to take exquisite photos. Thank you for these posts. I felt as if I was walking with you.

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