14 Best Things to Do in Barga, Italy (Updated in 2024)


Barga is a charming Medieval hilltop town in Northern Tuscany, in the province of Lucca.

Not that many people have heard of Barga, Italy, and the tourists that do visit Barga tend to travel there on a day trip from Lucca, only spending a few hours wandering around the walled old city.

During my research for this article, I actually read a guide to Barga written by somebody who had spent just 4 hours there – 4 hours! 

I happen to think that it’s a real shame that more people don’t take the time to soak up Barga’s beauty and give it the time that it deserves. 



My aunt and uncle have been living in Barga for about 15 years, and whenever I visit, I’m blown away by the beauty of this charming little town.

With that in mind, I decided to pen this complete guide to Barga, including all of the best things to do in Barga, how to get there, and more.

So, if you’re looking for the most comprehensive guide to Barga, Italy, on the internet, then you’ve found it!

Let’s get into it.


Barga, Italy – The Most Charming Town in Tuscany


The history of Barga


Barga’s history has been…tumultuous.

Over the years, it seems like every man and his dog has fought to claim Barga Italy as his own.

In the 11th century, although Barga was formally subordinate to Lucca, it was obtained by Matilda of Tuscany, whose military accomplishments allowed her to dominate all of the territories north of the Church State (go girl!).

Matilda actually founded 100 churches, including the cathedral, or duomo of Barga – Collegiata di San Cristoforo. After she died, Matilda left all of her possessions to the cathedral, but this only caused a war, and the diocese of Lucca was split between several places, including Pisa.



This new allegiance with Pisa gave Barga the motivation and confidence it needed to take on Lucca, and so in the 13th century, Barga and Pisa fought Lucca together (this is known as the Battle for Barga).

Finally, in 1236, after a long battle, Barga was subordinated to Lucca, but it didn’t stay quiet for long – over the years, many regions have taken Barga as their own, but since 1923 it has remained a province of Lucca. 


The most Scottish town in Italy


Take a walk around Barga and you may well hear a lot of Scottish accents, often from people seamlessly switching into Italian when the mood takes them.

There are a lot of Scots living in Barga, but this isn’t your typical ‘Brits abroad’ scenario – the Barga/Scotland connection goes all the way back to World War 2, when many Barga residents emigrated to Scotland.

Over the years, their children and grandchildren have returned to Barga, Tuscany, and now a massive 40% of Barga citizens have Scottish relatives!

There is even a fish and chip festival every August to celebrate the Scottish connection! 


Is Barga worth visiting?


Most visitors to Italy go to all of the major cities.

Perhaps they will make a few stops along the Amalfi Coast, or visit Rome, but not very many tourists go and visit the smaller towns in Italy, and in my opinion, if you want to see the ‘real’ Italy then small towns like Barga are exactly where you need to be (another great spot I visited in Italy that is lesser known is Trento)! 

Not only that, but overtourism is a real problem, and the antidote to it is to visit those lesser-known places!

In Barga, which has only 10,000 inhabitants, you can wander around the Old Town without having to battle through hordes of tourists.

What’s more, Barga is much more budget-friendly than larger Italian cities such as Rome or Florence – in Barga you can get a large glass of Prosecco for 2 EUR and a meal in a restaurant for as little as 8 EUR! 


There is also always something going on in Barga, from the annual summer Jazz Festival, to the ‘Battle of Barga,’ the Fish and Chip festival, and the Christmas Nativity parade that takes place on the streets of Barga Old Town each year.

Every time a restaurant or shop opens, there is a party in its honour – in fact, there was even a recent inauguration for a new ATM in the Old Town!

There are also tonnes of boutique shops, art galleries, museums and churches, so much so that you’d have to spend a month in Barga to see everything it has to offer! 



What’s more, Barga is very tourist-friendly.

Most Barga restaurants have English menus, the locals have a basic understanding of English, and the tourist information centre make it impossible for you to mess up.

Barga is also so tiny that it’s impossible to get lost, and you won’t need to worry about taking public transport around Barga because you can walk from one side of the city to the other in less than 10 minutes! 


14 best things to do in Barga Italy


Explore Old Barga


The Old Town of Barga absolutely blew me away.

On my first visit to Barga back in 2011, I couldn’t believe how many secret passageways, staircases and alleyways there were, and the pastel-coloured houses with shutters on the windows and hanging baskets brimming with colour stole my heart – if you’ve ever visited Erice in Sicily, you will definitely notice some similarities to Barga.

What’s more, Barga’s Old Town is quiet. 

You can take your time and stroll around the streets without having to push past large groups that are all jostling for that perfect picture.



You won’t find crowds of cruise ship tourists or groups of 30 people blindly following a tour guide. There aren’t Americans clutching paper maps and wearing socks with sandals (sorry to my American readers out there – I know that you aren’t the ones wearing socks and sandals). 

Even in the middle of the day during the summer months, you will not feel as though you are just wandering through one giant tourist trap.

In Barga you will not find dozens of souvenir shops or restaurants geared specifically towards hapless tourists.

You will just find a sleepy town full of real people living real lives, and this makes Old Barga a pleasure to explore.


 Walk up to the Duomo


Barga’s cathedral, or duomo, is called Collegiate di San Cristoforo (the Cathedral of San Cristoforo) and is a magnificent building at the highest point of the Old Town – there are a number of ways to reach it, but just keep walking up!

Barga’s duomo is home to frescoes and sculptures dating back to ancient times, and it is the oldest religious building in Barga, being built sometime between the 11th and 16th centuries. 

The duomo is free to enter, but for the lights to be on you must put 2 EUR into the meter (the lights will then come on for 10 minutes).

Of course, like most European cathedrals, Collegiate di San Cristoforo is stunning inside, but the real treat is the view from outside.

From the front of the cathedral, the sweeping panoramic views over Barga Old Town and the sloping hills of the Apuan mountain range have to be seen to be believed, and the large grassy area to the side of the duomo is the perfect spot to while away an afternoon.


The Antonio Mordini Civic Museum


The Antonio Mordini Civic Museum is located right next to the duomo, so it’s worth checking whether it’s open after you’ve had a look around the cathedral.

The building itself is actually the former residence of the commissioner and chief of Barga, and the museum documents the palaeontology of the Serchio Valley, the archaeology of Barga and art from the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

There are some fossils and religious artefacts, and although most of the information is in Italian, the lady who showed us around spoke a little English and was able to tell us what things were. 

The most interesting part of the museum, however, is the underground prison.



The prison was actually in use until the last century (having been there since 1330), and prisoners lived in underground stone cells, having only one hour every day for fresh air.

From the prison, prisoners had a view of the cathedral, but they also could also see the huge tree next to the duomo which was used for public hangings! 

I love prison museums, and this one in particular was super interesting as the cells remain exactly as they were, with the prisoners’ graffiti etched into the stone walls. It was especially amusing to be to note that the older markings were all religious in nature (there were lots of depictions of the Virgin Mary), but by the 17th century the prisoners were drawing boobs and willies! 



A word of warning – for no other reason than ’this is Italy,’ this museum doesn’t have set opening times and is closed more often than not.

Nobody that I spoke to when I visited actually knew what the schedule was for this museum, so if you do happen to come across it open then you’re in luck!

As far as admission prices, entry to the museum and prison is supposed to be 3 EUR but both times I’ve visited, I’ve been let in for free.


Go shopping!


Italy is renowned for good shopping, and Barga is no different.

Inside the walled Old Town you’ll find a range of independent boutique stores selling wonderful handcrafted gifts.

From the cobbler who makes shoes by hand to the saffron shop, which sells everything from saffron cheese to saffron honey and craft beer, you’re sure to find a unique gift for somebody in Barga Italy. 


Barga’s churches


It almost seems as though there is a church on every corner in Barga – for such a tiny town, it really packs in the churches, and you can easily spend a whole day visiting all of them and looking at the wonderful architecture, frescoes and stained glass windows.

After all, you’re in Italy – it almost wouldn’t count if you didn’t go inside a few churches!


Barga art galleries 


Barga Italy is home to so many art galleries with constantly rotating exhibitions, often featuring the work of local artists.

New galleries and exhibitions are popping up all the time in Barga, and there are probably more galleries per capita here than anywhere in the world! 

One of the best things to do in Barga is to wander round and have a look at all of the art on display.


Teatro dei Differenti


Literally translating to ’theatre of the deviant,’ Teatro Dei Differenti is related to one of the most renowned Italian poets ever, Giovanni Pascoli, who considered Barga to be his adoptive town and gave his famous speech in favour of the Lybian war here in 1911.

Today the theatre has been completely renovated while preserving its original structure, and it functions as a working theatre, home to many literary and cultural manifestations aimed at celebrating both the esteemed Italian poet and local literary, artistic and musical organisations. 


Wine tasting


If all of that walking around and looking at churches has tired you out then fear not – not far out of Barga centre is La Cantina del Vino, a winery that stocks local wines from nearby independent vineyards.

For 18 EUR, you can sample a selection of wines and enjoy some bruschetta, cold meats and cheeses with honey.

La Cantina del Vino is in a wonderful location with lush mountain views, sweet smelling flowers and very hospitable hosts, Eduardo and Vanda, and wine tasting here is one of my favourite things to do in Barga and something I make sure to do every time I visit.


Drink coffee


Still wondering what to do in Barga, Italy?

Darling, drink coffee!

Something that all the Barga residents like to do each morning is wander down to Hotel Alpino in the New Town and enjoy their morning cappuccinos and pastries together as they read the newspaper, share gossip and watch the world go by.

Alpino is always packed full of locals and is in the best location (plus, their custard cream pastry is to die for!).

Not only that but Alpino has been owned by the same family since the end of the 18th century – now if that’s not authentically Italian, I don’t know what is!

Another favourite for a sweet Italian breakfast is Pasticceria Fratelli Lucchesi.


Learn about Brazil’s close knit relationship with Barga 


Not many people know this, but Brazil was actually the only South American country to send ground troops to fight overseas during the second world war.

These troops, called the Brazilian Expeditionary Force, consisted of 25,700 men and women who fought in Italy from September 1944 to May 1945.

Right in the centre of Old Barga, a museum aims to educate those in the dark about Brazil’s participation and sacrifices during that time.  


Barga market


Every Saturday morning in Barga, local sellers set up shop and sell their wares to the residents of Barga.

Most of the stalls are clothes stalls but there are also chicken stalls, fish stalls and cheese stalls with humongous wheels of cheese up for grabs!

Even if you’re not interested in buying anything, it’s still fun to wander around, perusing the goods on offer and people watching.

There are tonnes of gelaterias, cafes and coffee shops all around the New Town where the market is held, and so it’s a lovely way to start the weekend. 


Go to the telephone booth library!


Next to one of the entrances to the Old Town is a bright red telephone box that actually houses a library!

With the door always open and the books organised according to language (there are a lot of English language books there thanks to the expat community), the telephone box library is a great place to get rid of old books that you’ve been carrying around with you, as well as finding something new to read!

It’s also really cute. 


Be at one with nature


You’re in Tuscany, which means you’re never far away from lush green mountains!

Everywhere you look in Barga, you will see rolling hills and greenery as far as the eye can see.

Whether you’d like a relaxed stroll through Parco Kennedy, or a more challenging hike, you will not be disappointed in Barga!

For a list of hikes that you can do from Barga, please click this link.


Go to a festival!


As previously mentioned, there is ALWAYS some kind of celebration or festival going on in Barga.

The dates change every year and new things are always being added to the calendar, so I recommend keeping up to date with Barga News if you’d like to know more.

Barga News is constantly being updated and is the best English language resource for anybody interested in planning out their time in Barga, Italy. 

I can recommend the wonderful Battle For Barga festival (pictured below), the Barga Jazz Festival, and the Fish and Chip festival, all held in the summer.


Eat!


It goes without saying that the best thing to do in Barga is to eat!

You’re in Italy, after all.

Barga is home to lots of great restaurants, from casual bites at Da Aristo, to yummy pizzas at Bar Roma, and the best seafood in town at Giro di Boa.

There aren’t really any international options, but if you want good quality, reasonably-priced Italian food, you really can’t go wrong in Barga.

For more information about the best places to eat in Barga, check out my guide to Barga’s best restaurants.


Getting to Barga, Italy


Where is Barga?!

Barga is in Tuscany, in the province of Lucca, and is located 35km from the actual city of Lucca.

To get from Lucca to Barga, you can either take the train to Barga Gallicano and then get the bus up to the town, or get a bus that goes directly to Barga from Lucca.

The bus takes just over an hour and drops you off right in the centre of Barga, going all the way up to the Old Town, or Old Barga as the locals call it. 

If you’re flying, I recommend taking a flight to Pisa.



From there, you can travel to Barga via Lucca, or take a direct train right from Pisa (the airport shuttle in Pisa takes about 5 minutes and goes right to the train station) to Barga Gallicano, followed by the short bus ride.  

Alternatively, Florence, Italy, is just a 2 hour drive away, making Barga a great day trip if you are visiting Florence and want a little bit of peace and quiet. It is also easily reached from Cinque Terre.

To check train and bus times, I recommend Trainline.


Things to Do in Barga, Italy | Final Thoughts


This just about concludes my travel guide to Barga Italy.

I tried to include all of the main things to do in Barga, but if I missed anything then please let me know so that I can include it!

That’s about all I’ve got for today, but as always, if you have any questions then don’t hesitate to reach out and ask in the comments below!

Until next time,

XOXO


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Barga Italy - is this the most charming town in Tuscany? In Barga, which has only 10,000 inhabitants, you can wander around the Old Town without having to battle through hordes of tourists. Most of the houses there are actually people’s homes rather than Airbnbs and you get the sense that Barga is a real Italian town! What’s more, Barga is much more budget-friendly than larger Italian cities such as Rome or Florence.  #barga #tuscany #italy
Barga Italy - is this the most charming town in Tuscany? In Barga, which has only 10,000 inhabitants, you can wander around the Old Town without having to battle through hordes of tourists. Most of the houses there are actually people’s homes rather than Airbnbs and you get the sense that Barga is a real Italian town! What’s more, Barga is much more budget-friendly than larger Italian cities such as Rome or Florence.  #barga #tuscany #italy

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39 thoughts on “14 Best Things to Do in Barga, Italy (Updated in 2024)”

  1. It’s a shame you didn’t find the times for the civic museum. An excellent guide to Barga’s art, history and culture, http://www.artcache.it , has the opening days and times for all Barga’s museums and explanations of all the hidden art works

  2. Yes! It is the most charming and sincerely welcoming town in Tuscany. Love it there… of course, ancestral ties may color my opinion. Fabulous article!!

  3. My mothers hometown. I’ve been coming here since I was 2 years old in 1969. Going back in a few weeks!

  4. Susi and Ron Gauld

    Well done! What a fantastic article about Barga. We have had a Bed and Breakfast here in The Old Town for 15 years, Casa-Fontana, and will certainly be sharing your wonderful article with our guests. Thank you so much for going to all that work to promote our magical city so beautifully. I am sure the tourist department could take a lesson or two from you.

    1. Thank you so much! I look forward to hopefully meeting you the next time I’m in Barga (not sure if you know them but I’m Janet and David’s niece :)). Haha, I’d be happy to help the tourism department out if they wanted me 😛

  5. Maureen &Alex mosson

    I just love barga and it’s people fell in love with it on our first visit 2000 felt like part of one big family folk where so friendly and welcoming

  6. So much better than the bog standard blog from someone who arrives in a taxi on the Fosso from Ciocco has a quick zip round and is an expert on Barga in 2 or 3 hours . Very accurate especially the restaurant reviews you will have to come back to try the ones you missed especially Giro di Boa and Camberrello both local Tuscan food and not a tulip in sight . I’m enjoying reading your other travel blogs too and they will help me with planned future trips .

    1. Hahaha I haaaaate it when bloggers write a ‘travel guide’ to somewhere that they only spent a night or two in (or even less!). By all means write about your experiences but don’t claim to have an extensive guide! Yes I was so disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to visit Giro di Boa – it smelt delicious every time I walked past – but I was sad to learn that the piazza there is no longer ‘cat square’ 😛 Thanks for reading and commenting and do let me know if my blog helps you plan some other trips – it’s always lovely to hear that I’ve managed to inspire/help someone 🙂

  7. We have spent many lovely weeks in Barga with Janet and David, I enjoyed reading your travel guide and thought your photos were fantastic. We enjoyed Janet’s 70th birthday at Capretz, it was as amazing as you described.

  8. As I just came back from a month vacation to Barga and ready your article before I left I was excited to try the new restaurants. I ate at Elisa several times and LOVED the food. The meals were refreshing and delish. I was disappointed to see you didn’t mention the restaurant Scacciaguai which is a family run business that serves delicious food. Please try it out next time you are in Barga. Also, I highly recommend for morning pastries and coffee Pasticceria Fratelli Lucchesi. The pastries are to Die for.

    1. Oh I’m so glad you found it helpful! Hmm, I’ve never heard of that restaurant which is so weird because my family usually take me to allll the restaurants in Barga haha. I’m actually here now though so I will seek it out 🙂

    2. Ah I just looked up the restaurant and realised that I do know which one you’re talking about. I’ve been hesitant to go as I’ve heard a few people have gotten food poisoning there (people who went at different times…) but perhaps I’ll give it a go.

  9. Ciao, I enjoyed reading your article as it brought back nice memories of my October, 2019 day in Barga. I think I saw only a half dozen other people who appeared to be tourists so it seemed I had the whole town to myself. There was absolutely no one else at the Duomo while I was there and it was so inspirational. I even made a recording of the noon bells ringing which I go back and listen to occasionally. I particularly loved that huge tree! I am now reading a novel, “The Sound of the Hours” by Karen Campbell, about Barga during WWII. I looking forward to reading more of your articles.

  10. Thankyou for your delightful and informative article about Barga! It’s one of the best I’ve read complete with wonderful photographs.

    We are Scottish and have been going to Barga for over 15 years – no connection whatsoever but recommended by a colleague of my husband. On our first visit another Scottish person ‘Tommy’ said to us ‘you’ll be back’ we fell in love with the atmosphere , the people and all the things you have spoken about in your article! Every year we find new things and notice notice wee changes .
    Alas you did not mention Lucchesi’s ! Just beside the hairdressers/laundrette – wonderful expresso , pastries, cakes and snacks to die for! And you often get wee free tasters whilst siting enjoying your choices!
    , , pastries and

    Your article is one of the best I’ve read about Barga and all it has to offer

    1. Thank you so much for such a lovely comment!

      I shall definitely be sure to add Lucchesi’s when I update it (I have so many things on my to-do list, but I shall get there!).

      I have been before actually, nice place!

      Maybe I shall see you in Barga sometime 🙂

      1. Robert Arnquist

        I lived in Barga
        when I was a child of 12 in the mid seventies
        I went to school there for about 6 months – it was a magical time and it broke my heart when we had to leave .I made many friends and had many amazing experiences – too many stories to know where to begin – it is wonderful to hear that there are people that appreciate this beautiful place !

  11. Because of this blog, we made plans last year to for my wife and I to visit Barga this year. We leave Thursday for 10 days of doing nothing but being in Barga.

      1. Thank you for the article! Sorry to post a comment under someone else’s, I can’t figure how to post a new one. Your article made me change the plans and to include Barga in our Toscana trip, even though we’ll only have 1 or 2 nights to spend there, is it a good idea to hop in for a short visit on a way from La Spezia to Florence? If yes, what would be the more beautiful road to ride there – along the sea or through the mountains?
        Thanks in advance!!

  12. Carla Fletcher ( previously Gonnella)

    Hi Jezebel,

    My father was born in Barga – It is a place I am dying to visit and plan to come over in 2024. Is there places to stay for a night so I can truly appreciate the town I have heard so much about 🙂

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