Gallicano has been a borderland since the Middle Ages, either rebellious or ruled but also involved in the contrasting interests of three states: the Republic of Lucca; the House of Este in Garfagnana; and the Signoria fiorentina, which has been wedged between Lucca and Este lands since 1347, taking control of Barga.
At the foot of Monte Pania amid green and wooded valleys, the Gallicano area offers a warm welcome with its relaxing forested scenery and typical local villages that have remained unchanged down the centuries. The area is rich in priceless art too, such as a remarkable glazed terracotta piece attributed to Andrea Della Robbia in San Jacopo Cathedral, built within the centuries-old fortifications of Gallicano, and a sixteenth-century painted panel by Simone Carretta, in the church of San Pietro, in Trassilico, a hamlet surrounded by Garfagnana woodland. Wrought iron and pietra serena items can be found throughout the area: the artisanal tradition was encouraged here thanks to the fast mountain streams as well as the many mines and quarries.
During the year, folk enthusiasts flock to Gallicano for the various profoundly typical local events, including, at Christmastime, nativity plays and the Massacre of the Innocents, a form of popular theater halfway between the sacred and the profane, as well as the Befanata di questua, whereby every village in the area puts on its own version, nevertheless essentially singing on doorsteps in exchange for donations. The bonfire tradition lives on in Gallicano’s main piazza on the last day of the Carnival season: a dummy is burnt to bring a good harvest. Along a well-shaded path near Serchio, Tiro della forma is still played, an old shepherds’ game with medieval rules. Summer in Gallicano means a food festival practically every weekend, mostly held in sports centers, where visitors can take in the Festa dei Popoli e delle Genti. The patron saint San Jacopo is celebrated on July 25 with a traditional Palio, in which the old neighbourhoods compete with each other with their parade of papier mache allegorical carts. A few striking religious plays take place in August in Cardoso and Verni. Don’t miss the award-winning flagbearers of Gallicano, who liven up every events with their colourful performances.
It is worth remembering some of the historical figures who appear in the Gallicano archives, the birthplace of several interesting leaders in bygone culture, such as Domenico Bertini (1417-1506), who assumed an honourable role in the Republic of Lucca and also for the papal chancellery (during Nicholas V and, as apostolic secretary, for Sixtus V and Innocent VII). A patron of prized art, Bertini was important for Lucca-born sculptor Matteo Civitali. Also to be remembered was Antonio Vallisneri (1661-1730), the court doctor of Charles IV of Hapsburg, as well as a naturalist behind discoveries of fossils and the reproduction of insects to the extent that some regard him as the forerunner of the theory of evolution. Trassilico was the birthplace of Leopoldo Nobili (1785-1835), a famous scholar in the magnetic and thermoelectrical fields.