The parish church of Santa Maria in Loppia is located in the Loppia “frazione” of the city of Barga. It is very easily given a miss by anyone driving up to Barga from Fornaci di Barga but is well worth a visit.
Loppia’s Pieve goes back to at least 845 AD, has a main nave and two side aisles and a semi-circular apse which dates back a little later, from the twelfth century. The façade has a series of blind arches which are also present at the top of the outside of the three rear apses. On the left side of the building is a three-storey bell-tower raised up on graceful twin-lancet windows.
The interior (which, unfortunately is hardly ever open, although you could try it for Sunday Mass) has a beautiful gilded and carved altar from the seventeenth century, and also contains seventeenth century paintings. The zebra effect of the arches with stones from alternating quarries is also quite something!
On one side of the Pieve’s exterior is a sun-dial, or solar quadrant, (restored by Roberto Capalletti in 2005) which points to some rather significant dates (when the sun is shining!).
Perhaps one of the best things about landing up outside the Pieve di Loppia is that even if the lovely church is closed you can decide on the best way to reach Barga: by walking along a well-signposted footpath which takes one across rivers, past old wash-stations, by venerable maestà (wayside shrines), through the most luscious water-meadows, and under beautiful forests.
Now and then (and especially if you are not in a hurry) it is much better to walk to places and I, for one, am looking forwards again to stretching my legs on the Loppia to Barga walk (under two hours) when the weather clears up again, as it did when these pictures were taken in April 2006. Then Barga will really appear in its full glory as it did when mediaeval pilgrims climbed the same route and you will enjoy that welcome aperitif all the more!