Barga is a place where you can breathe in and feel poetry everywhere thanks to the Poet Giovanni Pascoli who in 1895 decided to move to a nearby hamlet of Barga, Castelvecchio where he lived until his death in 1912.
In this suggestive Serchio Valley embedded between the Apennines and Apuan Alps, Pascoli cultivated his love for the Italian language and Latin poetry and gave birth to his most important works. The place and inhabitants were his main inspirations. He preferred the humble local people and farmers and loved to study their customs and traditions, analyse social and humane problems like emigration, absorb the language rich of metaphors and transform them into poetry.
The Pascoli itinerary “Following the footsteps of the Poet” was created with the intent to enhance geographical, linguistic and cultural places full of Pascoli inspiration and verses. A pleasant itinerary that highlights the strong ties between Giovanni Pascoli and the place he chose to live in, but at the same time favouring walking tourism. The itinerary, called “Barga Castle”, a thirty-minute walk, takes you around the historical centre of Barga to discover significant places strongly connected to the Poet all marked with bilingual plaques.
1. The bastion of the “Fosso” and Antonio Mordini monument
The square in front of Porta Reale is more commonly known as “Il Fosso” (the antique defensive moat that surrounded the borough and was turned into the present square in 1834. Today it is dominated by the bronze statue of the MP Antonio Mordini, born in Barga and an important protagonist of the Italian Risorgimento and senator of the Italian Kingdom. Giovanni Pascoli arrived in Barga for the first time on 15th October 1895 and was warmly welcomed by the nobles of the town like Senator Mordini. At the official unveiling of the monument on the 28th August 1905, Pascoli made a commemorative speech dedicated to his friend.
2. Balduini Palace
Adolfo Balduini (Altopascio 1881 – Barga 1957) an active artist, sculptor and xylograph in Barga, to whom Maria Pascoli assigned the task of decorating the Chapel where the Poet was buried. There are also two kneeling-stools carved by him.
3. Saint Elisabeth Chapel and Convent
The convent, founded in 1454 by Beatified Michael of Barga, was completed in 1506 with a small chapel that hosted a group of reclusive nuns. Today you can still admire precious Robbiane terracotta works of art.
In 1788, it was transformed by the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo into an educational institute for female scholars and later followed compulsory elementary education for the girls of the town. Pascoli visited it when he was inspector on behalf of the Ministry of Education in 1901. According to various local stories, the Poet defined it as “the forge of mountain school teachers”.
4. Salvi and Magri Houses
On the façade of the family house of Salvi, friend of Giovanni Pascoli, there is a bronze plaque of the sculptor Romanelli, with an epigraph dictated by the Poet. Salvo Salvi was a symbol, for the Poet, of the simple and laborious Barga that he loved. Giuseppe, son of Salvo, was the Poet’s lawyer. Adjacent is the Magri family house. Giovanni Pascoli was very close to the Magri brothers: Luigi the physic, Giuseppe the chemist and Alberto the artist who interprets in his works the authentic spirit of Pascoli poetry.
5. Barga Cathedral
Saint Christopher Cathedral is the most important religious building of Barga and was built in different periods. The first construction dates back to before the year 1.000. In the following extensions you can find architectural and decorative elements of astonishing beauty from Romanic to Gothic periods. With the construction of the two lateral chapels and choir of the XVII century, the church was completed. The Cathedral has three internal naves and a marble barrier formed by red and white decorated marble slabs on which stands the magnificent marble pulpit attributed to the school of Guido Bigarelli of Como (XIII century).
Above the bell tower entrance you can find the inscription taken from the opening speech of the Antonio Mordini monument that summarises well the spirit of the inhabitants that built the cathedral.
The sound of the bells that can be heard in Castelvecchio, inspired Pascoli to write the famous poem “L’Ora di Barga”.
6. Salvo Salvi or Town Hall Square
In 1548 a column with the Medici coat of arms was erected in part of the square in honour of Cosimo I when he paid visit to Barga. Today the square is dedicated to Salvo Salvi, a Garibaldian, wise administrator and mayor of Barga who had a respectful relationship and sincere friendship with Giovanni Pascoli. This is the reason why the Poet commemorated his friend with a speech entitled “The right man for Barga” on the 20th of September 1905 at the Theatre. Here on the 10th September 1911, Pascoli, during a political speech for the town elections, affirmed: “Barga is the town of almost all my works, for what it is worth, my name is indissolubly tied to those of Barga and Castelvecchio”.
7. Café Capretz
Acquired from an antique merchant Loggia (middle of the 500’s), the café was run by Italiano Capretz when Pascoli arrived for the first time in Barga. There are many letters and cards of the Poet addressed to Capretz that underline the great and deep friendship between the two. On a column on the front archway you can see the “Marzocco” in stone, that is the symbol of the Florentine authority of Barga. In this café on the 28th October 1905, with close friends, important people of Barga and the Poet’s sister Mariù, a banquet was held here to celebrate his departure to Bologna where he was assigned the University Chair held by Carducci.
On the terrace there is an epigraph dictated by the Poet.
8. Angelio Square
The square is dedicated to Pietro Angeli (1517-1596), humanist, poet, tutor of Ferdinando I de Medici. The marble bust, a work of Guglielmo Topi, observes from above the passers-by and was unveiled on 27th September 1896. On this occasion Pascoli made the famous speech “Il Bargeo”.
9. The Theatre “dei Differenti”
On the 23rd of April 1688 the “dei Differenti” Academy was founded. In order to carry out recitals, some of the academics decided to build a theatre that was successively enlarged and restructured. The opening took place on 25th July 1795. The Theatre was honoured with the performance of “Rosetta’s dream” the only operatic attempt of the Poet. Pascoli had always desired to set music to his poetry and managed to carry this out in 1905 by assigning his libretto to the blind musician Carlo Mussinelli from La Spezia. “Rosetta’s dream” was performed in Barga but did not have any further success outside Barga.
Here Pascoli made his last official appearance in the afternoon of 26th November 1911, when already sick, he made his famous speech “The great Proletarian has risen” in favour of the war in Libya. At the Theatre a solemn commemoration for the Poet was held that also Giacomo Puccini took part in.
10. Cordati House
Bruno Cordati, a young man of the period, was requested by Pascoli to fresco the court of arms inside the garden of his house at Castelvecchio. The well-known artist painted one of the most famous portraits of the Poet that hangs in the Town Hall council room.
11. Mordini Palace
Antonio Mordini, Garibaldian, was born here and his statue dominates the “Fosso” square. The palace that has belonged to the family since the 18th century, contains one of the most important private archives of the Italian Risorgimento. On the façade you can admire the family coat of arms and bronze plaque with the Victory bulletin at the end of the First World War.
12. Caproni Villa
This villa, at the top of San Francesco Street, belonged to Doctor Alfredo Caproni, fraternal friend and personal doctor of the poet and nephew of Bartolomeo (better known and mentioned many times by Pascoli as zi’ Meo). The Poet was often guest at the Caproni family house and left from here to go to the theatre where he read his speech “The great Proletarian has risen” on 26th November 1911.
13. Saint Francis Hospital
Giovanni Pascoli was always very sensitive towards healthcare problems and for this reason he said that that the hospital was one of the nicest things that belonged to Barga. In his “Letter to the friends of Barga” (1907) he wrote: “… but do you really know what are the good things about these places, the best and most beautiful? The hospital!… A model of modernity, a godsend for the needy, an honour for the town! And therefore a miracle of love!”. In the vestibule of the hospital there is a Latin couplet of the Poet “aegroti debent auris artiique salutem et donaturo quantulacumque tibi”.