Walls of Barga
typology: Cinta muraria,sec. XIV-XVI
Foundation: The fortified complex is medieval.
Barga stands right above an alluvial plain known as Pian Grande and crossed by two torrents. The town originally had three gates, but today only two remain, the Porta Reale and the Porta Macchiaia; they both have guardhouses and open towards Piazza del Fosso, so called because of the moat that used to surround the walls.
The historic town centre lies at the foot of a fortified hillock known as Arringo, Barga's small Acropolis: here a large open space surrounded by high walls contains the Romanesque duomo of St. Christopher and the Palazzo Pretorio. The walls which are made of roughly hewn local stone are vertical and crowned in some portions by patrol balconies projecting inwards. Barga played a role as political centre of the Medici within the Serchio valley and controlled one of the main river crossings along the valley floor, in historical times an important route of communication in a politically complex environment divided between Lucca and the Dukes of Este.
State of preservation
Some portions of the walls are incorporated in houses, others have been pulled down to make way for new roads. They no longer have the crenels described in contemporary documents. Only one of the truncated cone shaped towers inserted along the wall curtain remains, though shorter than it originally was. Those portions of the fortified complex that have been preserved are generally in good condition, while parts of the walls have been recently reinforced and repaired to prevent their deterioration.
Barga possessed walls since the Middle Ages; the castle
of Barga was repeatedly besieged during the struggle between Lucca and the Holy See in the aftermath of Countess Matilde's death, cause of much bloodshed in the Serchio valley.
It became an important commercial and agricultural centre thanks to its flatlands and soon aroused the envy of Lucca: so the latter imposed on Barga high duties giving rise to a lively smuggling activity towards the Florentine territory. The damage caused by this illegal activity to Lucca's economy prompted the siege of 1298 that destroyed the walls. It was only after 1316 that Castruccio Castracani had the fortifications rebuilt and the town slowly regained its commercial and political role; however, at Castruccio's death, the citizens of Barga took advantage of Lucca's moment of weakness and daringly declared themselves subject to Florence: so began, in 1331, the long and prosperous Florentine period during which the walls were restored and reinforced until they reached their final consistency, maintained until the XIXth century demolitions, with high and narrow curtains, to which later several truncated cone shaped towers
In 1550 Giovan Battista Belluzzi, famous architect of the Medici, came to Barga where he remained a long time to oversee repairs to the walls that threatened to collapse in several places.
The long period of peace that marked the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries in the Serchio valley gradually diminished the strategic importance of the town's fortifications. One of the gates, the Porta di Borgo, was pulled down in 1833 and the same fate was later reserved to part of the walls that had to make way for a new road. During World War II some of the remaining portions of the walls were destroyed by bombs.
Barga is at the top of a plateau inclined towards the valley floor of the Serchio. It can be reached along state road n. 445 from which, at Fornaci di Barga, a communal road to the town branches off. Park your car near the walls and enter the town centre on foot.