Italy as a nation has it all, the sublime cuisine, the breath-taking views, the ancient and spectacular architecture. Take the best bits about this beautiful nation and scale it down to a town of just over 10,000 and well…you have Barga. The history of this town is one that sparks interest, this settlement surrounded by the rolling hills of Tuscany is referred to by some as “The most Scottish town in Italy” and you’ll probably not be surprised to know, this isn’t because of its climate. Although the landscape is similar to that of the highlands (i.e stupendously beautiful) a large factor for this tagline is due to the connection between the two countries after many residents in the town migrated to cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh during the 19th Century and also during the Mussolini years when fascism was suffocating the state. Italy became a democratic republic in a historic referendum in 1946 and from what can be observed this town prospered but their assets go far beyond a financial nature as the rich culture and geography of this settlement is priceless. If you are looking to take a day trip to this heavenly town, here are a few things to bare in mind:
So today we went to visit Barga, the most Scottish town in Italy. It is also the town my great grandfather immigrated from to settle in Glasgow. Like many Scots-Italians, he left during a dark period in Italy’s history. Today, this town is vibrant, picturesque and I can’t describe how lovely everyone is. Highlight of the trip 🇮🇹👍☀️ #italy #tuscany #barga #duomo #Europe #trip #hills #views #holiday
My great-grandfather was from this town so my trip already had a bit of a “Who do you think you are?” vibe but what was most overwhelming was the sheer beauty of this place. A five minute walk uphill from the main street will take you to the local church, Duomo, this beautiful place of worship is only just bested in looks by the view across the Garfagnana region and It’s sprawling hills with villages dotted across the landscape, a similar picture to Switzerland only with less rugged mountain edges. If you have a contempt for crowds, this is bliss as it is a million miles away from the hustle and bustle in Rome. In addition, the town isn’t short of a shop or two, stores selling local produce as well as souvenirs -not like the garish fridge magnets and snow globes usually found on the shelves, these were relevant and tasteful souvenirs.
Food & Drink
Right, let’s get one thing straight, Barga Ice Cream is like nothing I have tasted before and it’s not expensive. It’s amazing. We went to an ice cream parlour just off the main piazza where you can get your fill for 3 euro and then chill in the quiet and peaceful square. Everywhere in Italy will claim to have the best ice cream, but this is a solid contender (personal opinion but I’m right). If you’re not as keen on the whole Ice cream thing and fancy a beer instead you are well catered for. In the Sul Fosso region of the town which is just as you drive in from the east you will find a Celtic Football Club bar called Paolo Gas. This bar, in line with its Scottish connection in terms of football will feel like a home away from home for Scots with tenants and Irn-Bru chilling (as a Fife boy, I was over the moon). You will be made to feel at home from the welcoming staff and you get a real feel for the sense of community in this town.
In order to get here you are going to have to rent a car. Although I’m sure you can organise a bus tour to the area in some way or another, your best bet is to bite the bullet and negotiate the Italian roads. Barga is about a 20 minute drive from Lucca and the one thing to be grateful of is the town is miles away from the nearest Autostrada, instead, you can enjoy a leisurely drive up and down the winding roads where you can put some chilled tunes from Matt Munro, enjoy the sunshine and observe the views. Once you arrive there are plenty of areas to drop the car off, if you can’t get parking on the main road there is a car park at the bottom of the town, just be prepared for a vertical climb. Make sure to shop about for car rental prices as in our experience, they can vary dramatically.
- Italian, learn the basics. There are some English speakers in Barga but it wouldn’t go amiss learning a few phrases if you plan on drinking out or going round any of the local businesses, it may be handy, besides, no harm in having your basic phrases in the bank.
- Take your Time. Walk about the town, take it in, this is an area of the country rich in culture so wander a wee bit, enjoy the views, take plenty photos to brag about on your Instagram and what have you. You’ll soon be back at work so make sure you don’t rush.
One final note before I get off my soapbox, the thing most charming is the authenticity of this area. Barga is a town with originality and is home to lovely people, someone actually took the time to teach me a few Italian phrases when I was there to help me on my travels (disclosure I’m still terrible at speaking Italian). There are tourists, but it’s not “touristy” at all, there’s nobody selling selfie sticks nor are there any kiosks selling 4 euro Coca-Cola and yesterday’s copy of The Times, it’s proper chill. I would urge anyone who wants to embrace Tuscany to visit Barga, even if for a few hours to get a break from the city you won’t regret it, and who knows, you may see a bit of Scotland too.