Civita di Bagnoregio is also referred to as ‘the dying city‘, ‘the castle in the sky‘ and ‘the ghost town‘. Due to the constant erosion of the tuff rocks upon which it is placed, this citadel, half-way between Orvieto and Lake Bolsena, has Etruscan and Medieval origins. Suspended in time and space, Civita di Bagnoregio is beyond doubt one of the most beautiful and characteristic Italian villages you will ever experience.
In 2017, Bagnoregio was proposed for World Heritage Status by the Italian UNESCO commission.
If successful, the “Cultural Landscape of Civita di Bagnoregio” could enter the prestigious UNESCO list in 2022, in a proposal backed by Civita and the Lazio region with the support of Italy’s culture ministry.
Over the years the population of Civita di Bagnoregio has dwindled. Today it boasts 12 permanent residents rising to 100 during the summer months.
However, Bagnoregio has successfully branded itself, making much of its locally produced food and wine. They even have their own craft beer label. Supplies to and from the village are ferried along the narrow bridge on mopeds or in tiny apes. A sign on the door of Trattoria Antica Forno states: “The Rick Steves readers are welcome!”. The people behind the Acqua di Civita range of perfumes and soap boast of international sales and requests to launch their products in London and Tehran. In 2009 a charming version of Pinocchio, starring Bob Hoskins, was even filmed there.
Today, the once abandoned buildings of Civita are being bought by many people who want to help preserve and maintain it for the future.
HOW TO GET THERE
Civita di Bagnoregio is well worth the visit. Be sure to set aside 4 – 6 hours which will include traveling there. It is an unforgettable day out!
The only way to get to Civita, is on foot, crossing the bridge that links it to the main village of Bagnoregio (Civita di Bagnoregio meaning ‘Civita of Bagnoregio‘). If you come by car, you will have to pay a fee to park it in the valley below the bridge. A bus will then take you to the beginning of the bridge. You can walk from the carparking area to the start of the bridge by foot, but the road is uphill and quite steep. We have warned you!
In our opinion, the best and most efficient way to get to Civita di Bagnoregio, is by car:
- FROM THE NORTH: follow Highway A1 towards Rome and exit in Orvieto. After the toll booth, turn left and follow directions to Civita di Bagnoregio. Alternatively, take SS2 Cassia, by Montefiascone, take the SS71 Umbro-Casentinese. After about 14 km turn right towards Bagnoregio.
- FROM THE SOUTH: leaving the A1 road after the toll both of Orvieto, continue along the state highway for approximately 2 hours.
Train stations from where you can get to Bagnoregio are Viterbo and Orvieto. Once you arrive in either of these towns, you can take the COTRAL bus line to get to Bagnoregio.
There is a 5 Euro fee to walk the footbridge to Civita di Bagnoregio.
Civita di Bagnoregio was originally founded by Etruscans 2.500 years ago. The city at the time was formed only by a group of houses and where the modern Civita stands. There was the acropolis with a temple and a forum, core of civil and religious life of the whole town. Where Bagnoreggio stands now, there used to be the inhabited area of Rota.
Enclosed between to rivers, Rio Chiaro and Rio Torbido, surrounded and protected by the Valley of Calanchi, this small upland was placed in an absolutely strategic position. In addition, the close mouth of the river Tiber, constitutes an important commercial and communication link.
The Etruscans already knew about the seismic instability of this area and built some structures aimed to protect the village from earthquakes, including the building of drainage channels for a better flow of rainwater. The Romans, in turn, restarted the works but later their works were disregarded and the area soon fell into decay and it was finally abandoned.
To make things worst, the tuff hill where Civita stands, there is continuous erosion caused both by the action of two streams, by rain and by wind. Civita is slowly and inexorably crumbling.
The wonderful village of Civita di Bagnoregio is today a very small town center where time seems to have stopped. It can only be reached by foot, walking along a concrete bridge built for the few citizens that remain here and for tourists coming to visit it from all over the world.
What you will find
The main entrance to Civita, is a huge stone passageway, cut by the Etruscans 2,500 years ago and decorated in the 12th century with a Romanesque arch. Passing through the portal, you enter into another world — one stuck in the Middle Ages. You can feel history in the smooth cobblestones under your feet.
Civita has one famous son, St. Bonaventure, the “second founder” of the Franciscan order. His home is long gone, but the basic grid plan of the old town survives, with a church as its centerpiece. The identity of this holy place of worship has changed with the centuries: An Etruscan temple, then a Roman temple, rose here before today’s Catholic church. Ancient pillars from those pagan temples still stand just outside the church door.
The main piazza is the heartbeat and pride of the village, the spot where festivals and processions start, visitors are escorted, and the town’s past is honored. Wild donkey races take place here in June and September, and at Christmas, a live nativity scene is enacted in the square.
Take your time and wander the cobbled streets, admire the view and sip some wine with a plate of freshly prepared bruschetta. This is not the sort of place you want to leave in a hurry, so enjoy!