It is just so breathtakingly beautiful you’d be forgiven for thinking photographs of Civita di Bagnoregio were instead paintings of an imagined kingdom in the skies.
This 1200-year-old Italian village, with a population ranging from 10 to 100 depending on the season, indeed has a magical story to tell. And it is a story with a final chapter yet to be written.
Civita di Bagnoregio is in the Province of Viterbo, 120 kilometres north of Rome.
This picture postcard medieval settlement is perched precariously on a crumbling hill that is ever-so-slowly tightening its terminal grip.
There are efforts underway to contain the erosion but every year, more and more of the volcanic ash bedrock continues to slip into the Tiber River valley and it’s feared the whole town will ultimately surrender to the forces of nature.
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A powerful earthquake was the catalyst for a complete evacuation in 1695 and landslides have continued ever since.
When the Estrucans first occupied the site 2500 years ago, a long gone spur of land enabled easy access to Civita but centuries of continued erosion mean today, there’s only one way in – a 400 metre footbridge from the base of the hill.
The rich history of the town that was once an important post along ancient trade routes includes its principal boast as the birthplace of Saint Bonaventure whose home and many others fell away into the valley below a long time ago.
Despite its staggering beauty and hypnotic appeal, Civita has mercifully avoided the temptation to ‘capitalise’ on tourism and remains largely unaffected. In fact until recently, Italians referred to Civita as il paese che muore (“the dieing town”) but renewed interest from cashed-up cityfolk campaigning to preserve its heritage has raised its global profile.
There are several places to stay in the hamlet including the upmarket Corte della Maesta and Domus Civita as well as B&Bs and there are five restaurants/cafes.
How to get to Civita di Bagnoregio
Travelling by car is the best option. It’s about a 90 minute drive from Rome along the A1 to Orvieto en-route to Bagnoregio – the village’s larger ‘sister city’ that leads to a car-parking area for the footbridge to Civita.
If you don’t have a hire car, from Rome, take the train to Orvieto – there are several departures daily – and then a local bus to Bagnoregio.