PISTOIA, BARGA, BAGNI DI LUCCA – Tuscan towns worth a visit

The Lima River and Ponte a Serraglio, Bagni di Lucca

We steered clear of the Tuscan tourist traps (Florence, Pisa, Sienna) on this trip and instead concentrated on the lesser-known towns to the north. Good decision!


Saturday is market day in Pistoia, and preparations were in progress for a big blues festival.

Tutti frutti in the Pistoia market.

This made it lively and fun when we visited, though it also made it difficult to get a good look at the major piazza in front of the marble duomo.
Detail of the side of a Pistoia church
This was where fifteenth century metal workers invented the pistol, which took its name from the town.

And what a contribution to world culture! What would our modern film and television dramas be like without pistols? Imagine all those long scenes of cowboys, cops and robbers setting up muskets on steadying sticks.
Grazie, Pistoia!

Also notoriously, the town was the site of the kidnapping and eventual murder of prime minister Aldo Moro and several of his bodyguards by the Red Brigade in 1978.

The memorial to Aldo Moro and his escort, Pistoia.


People come to Barga to see the church, in particular the marble pulpit inside it.

Up the steps to the Barga church...

The vantage point gives an excellent view of the surrounding countryside, across to the Apuan Alps.

...and still more Barga stairs.

Inside the wall the mediaeval centre has plenty of those stone steps and narrow streets we tourists love. We guess it’s not so great for residents who have just bought a new fridge or grand piano.

Barga hosts an international opera festival in the summer, though unfortunately we missed it.

We did however enjoy an excellent meal at l’Altana Restaurant.

The view from the top of Barga.


In Bagni di Lucca, even the satellite dishes are painted in Tuscan colours.

It was great to be able to call Bagni home for a week, and to have the lovely apartment of our blogging friend Debra (to see her website, click here) as a base for exploring the Garfagnana.

Bagni has long been a popular spa town for the Italian beautiful people, starting with the Etruscans and Romans who took the waters here.

Now it’s a charming village by the Lima River. It’s popular with expats, though not overrun by them. There are just enough visitors so that we didn’t need to be embarrassed about our halting Italian before lapsing back into English. No problemo – Bagni di Lucca locals are used to it.

Bagni di Lucca cafes at dawn. How do you say 'strong cappuccino' in Italian?


Filed under Italy

5 responses to “PISTOIA, BARGA, BAGNI DI LUCCA – Tuscan towns worth a visit

  1. You could ask for cappuccino molto forte (very strong) or perhaps a doppio (double shot). Barga and Pistoia are great choices. I do love Florence, Pisa and Siena, but I go in the quiet months when the tourists haven’t arrived in droves. We love Bagni di Lucca and are pleased you liked it too.

    • Ah, at least I had no trouble getting the ‘cappuccino’ bit right.

      Yes, we’ve enjoyed Firenze, Siena and Pisa on a previous trip to Toscana, so it was great to find some new places. We can see why you love Bagni, and thanks so much again.

      • The apartment with the pillars is the one we almost bought. I love this building, but I think ours is better.

      • I also love the building from the outside, BdL, but your location with the river view is much better. As everyone in Sydney or Amsterdam knows, life’s ultimate real estate goal is a water frontage!

  2. I can also recommend Cortona, Richard. A small town a bit higher up in the hills. There’s a galleria that exhibits work of Giulio Galgani. We bought his priceless Il Pollo Innamorato (Chicken In Love): http://www.giuliogalgani.com/scultura/truschi/
    And there seems to be a writer-related summer event in Cortona, too, organized by Moleskine (Cortona on the move).

    Oh, and I so agree on the water frontage being the ultimate real estate goal. 🙂


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