Bagnoregio Civita’s isolation has been its downfall and its saviour. The former Etruscan town sits on a slowly eroding tufa plug in the Tiber valley. The town began to disintegrate around the 16th century for a couple of reasons. The clay base below the tufa subsided and the constant removal of stone from the sides of the cliff to build houses weakened the edges.
An earthquake in 1695 accelerated the move of the residents to nearby Bagnoregio. The migration continued and today there are only a handful of permanent residents. A few home owners come and go, and in the summer the town is busy with tourists, fascinated by a town frozen in time.
Clouds were skidding across the sky on the afternoon we visited, creating moving shadows across the striking town.
The only way into the town is via the footbridge, which replaced the original crumbling mule track. The addition of the footbridge is thanks to Bonaventura Tecchi, an Italian writer who was born in Bagnoregio Civita. He drew attention to the dying town and the resulting footbridge was its saviour. It is a steep walk up to the town.
It may be better not to look back if you are afraid of heights.
The entrance is through the stone doorway originally cut by Etruscans 2500 years ago and redecorated in the 12th century. The Porta Santa Maria is decorated by stone lions holding a human head, symbols often appearing on medieval churches.
The town is beautifully preserved and well cared for. The gardens are full of flowers and the houses appear to be well loved. There are a few shops, restaurants and cafes, most of which were closed in the late afternoon when we visited.
Come for a little walk around this enchanting town.
Peering over the edge reveals an interesting landscape.
We stayed in a B&B in the newer part of town. It is owned by one of Civita’s true characters, Franco, who also has a restaurant and B&B, Antico Forno, in the old town. He very kindly cooked dinner for us and told us many interesting tales of the town.
He has featured in many newspaper and magazine articles and has Rick Steves as a fan. He proudly told us the Catriona Rowntree from Australia’s Getaway ( a TV travel show) had been to chat to him. I think every town could use a spokesperson like Franco to extol its virtues.
It was dark as we made our way out of Bagnoregio Civita for the long walk back.
Bagnoregio Civita is not to be missed. It is in the province of Viterbo, about 120 kilometres from Rome. There is a car park near the entrance to the footbridge and there is a fee of €1.50 to enter the town.