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Barga and Ponte A Serraglio

ponte

After a day of rest and recovery, we are ready to explore some of the many villages that make up the Territori della Valle Del Serchio. The driving remains challenging and scary, but luckily, the men like the adventure and the chance to go fast around sharp turns. First stop is Barga, considered one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. Perched on a high hilltop, Barga’s center is protected from auto traffic, so we hike up to see this place that has been continuously settled since prehistoric times, then occupied by the Romans in the second century, then owned and operated successively by the Lombards, the Germans, the Florentines, and who knows who. With the unification of Italy, Barga lost its economic power and gradually slid into despair, at which point everybody said whatever and high-tailed it to Great Britain or the U.S.

The Cathedral of St. Christopher in Barga

The Cathedral of San Cristoforo is open but dark and we can’t figure out how to turn on the lights, despite shoving various amounts of euros into the coin box designed to turn them on. No matter. The church is surrounded by a beautiful garden, which you can see by poking your head through the iron bars. We also discover human-head-shaped indentations in the concrete walk outside that look mysteriously like Albert Einstein and Mr. Burns from the Simpsons. We think it may be some sort of visitation or miracle.

Ponte a Seraglio

Today we are determined to find the small village with river that we can see from our villa. A short distance from where we are, it turns out to be Ponte a Serraglio, a tiny spot with a row of noble villas, a picturesque bridge, a casino, and a hospital and neoclassical temple built in 1826 by a Russian prince who’d come to take the waters and cure his gout. No one knows how he did with the gout, but the locals were likely happy for the hospital. Standing on the bridge, we can look up the steep hill and see our villa. The first mention of this tiny, ancient spot dates back to 838.

We spot various signs pointing to various what we think are thermal baths, but somehow we are never able to locate any of them.

Dinner at our local eatery

On the way home, not far from our villa, is Il Biribisso, a ristorante with an expansive outdoor space for al fresco dining and a spectacular view of the Apennine ridge. The specialty of the house is Tagliata, a traditional meat dish of flame-grilled steak cut from the bone and served with a variety of “relishes” depending on the seasonal. Also on the menu — enormous fresh salads and a dessert that arrives engulfed in flame, followed by espresso and limoncello.

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Barga And Ponte A Serraglio

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