Pictures of Civita di Bagnoregio and the story of ‘The dying town’ had captured my interest and for a while now it has been on my mental list of ‘want to see’ places. It did not disappoint. The tiny crumbling village perched high above the Tiber valley in Lazio is striking. It’s position is stunning and the fact that it can only be reached on foot adds to its tranquil charm. The footbridge was built in 1965 as the road that connected Civita with Bagnoregio has crumbled away. Much of the village has crumbled away too, through erosion dating back to the 16th century. It was once a much larger town, built on a cliff of volcanic tufa. Its roots as a settlement go back to the bronze age, though most of the buildings are medieval. The decline started in the 16th Century so there are no buildings more recent than that.
This integrity of the medieaval buildings gives what’s left of the town considerable appeal, but it is also sad and eerie. Much of it has slipped away off the edge of the cliff due to erosion from streams below and wind and rain. An earthquake in 1695 accelerated the decline, the landslips increased from the 18th century and eventually a wide furrow opened up almost cutting off Civita from Bagnoregio and the wider world. Today the year round population is apparently around 14 people.
It was early evening when we were there and very quiet. A nice time to visit in the golden evening light. I imagine during the day there are quite a few visitors as there were several very attractive looking places to eat, but mostly closing up for the day by then.
As you approach Civita the erosion is very clear to see, and the first few buildings as you enter are clearly ruins but the ones in the centre are very well kept. Some were for sale which is an intriguing thought. How many of us would brave buying a house, no matter how charming, that will one day almost inevitably slide off the side of the cliff? Maybe the process is slow enough to take the risk!
The view from Civita is striking, though not beautiful. The terrain of ravines and hills of tufa rock is somehow disturbing, this is nature defying mankind.
Civita is reached on foot. Park in Bagnoregio then cross the 300m footbridge. there is a car park at the start of the bridge.
Civita di Bagnoregio is in northern Lazio near the border withUmbria and southern Tuscany. We visited from Bolsena (Lazio)which was easy, 15km (20minutes) Orvieto (Umbria) also gives easy access, 27km (1/2 hour). From Rome it would be about an hour and three-quarters (150km) by car, either on the A1 autostrada to Orvieto or the SS2 Cassia road to Montefiascone on Lake Bolsena.
By bus – Cotral has direct buses from Orvieto to Bagnoregio, taking 45 minutes http://www.cotralspa.it/index.asp