For its quintessentially Tuscan streets – and its striking mountain landscapes of the Garfagnana which guard them – Barga has been named one of the Borghi più Belli d’Italia (Italy’s most beautiful small towns). And, as if natural beauty and the atmosphere of the side streets weren’t enough, topping off all of this splendor for the past thirty-plus years has been the Barga Jazz Festival.
The festival was born in 1986 as a competition of jazz arranging and composing for orchestras, but all lovers of the genre quickly took note of it. The festival then quickly acquired its own orchestra, the Barga Jazz Orchestra, with the aim of spreading around the compositions submitted by the competition candidates. Barga then became an ideal setting for a genre that’s executed in myriad ways. The local population seemed to want to hear the same jazz notes ring out around town as they rang out during the festival; today, in fact, Barga is part of a network known as the “Borghi Swing” (Swing Towns), a collection of Italy’s most musical villages.
The event program these days is varied and dense; over the years initiatives for everyone have been added to enrich the original contest. So it’s not just dedicated professionals that get to participate, but simple jazz lovers who see the genre as a lifestyle. The program makes space for canonical concerts with huge international names, but there are also more niche-y events and performances: an evening in which various groups play together and peacefully “invade” side streets and squares, corners dedicated to jam sessions, moments for masterclasses and seminars, dinners and tastings immersed in the sounds of jazz and more. To sum up, it’s all done to create a full-blown festival dedicated to jazz, with passion and knowledgeable dedication steering the ship.