Civita di Bagnoregio
Là divisa dal mondo combattuta
There, disconnected by the world,
da terremoti, da sferzanti venti,
beaten by earthquakes and lashing winds
o Civita, da piogge, franamenti,
oh Civita, by rain, landslides,
strappata da rovine, stai seduta
torn from the ruins, you sit
sopra gli orli d'un colle macilenti.
over the rims of a skinny hill.
E miri, in basso, ai piedi tuoi caduta
And down you watch at your feet
ogni migliore parte. E sola e muta
every best part of you fallen. And alone and dumb
come lebbroso, soffri i patimenti.
as a leper, you endure your sufferings.
E sul disfarsi della tua struttura
And on the crumbling of your own structure
una tua mano al cielo si protende,
your hand stretches to the sky,
ivi palpita San Bonaventura
because there beats Saint Bonaventure
e si legge giù giù come scoscende
and one can read down and beneath as steep
fino a valle la triste tua sventura,
into the valley your sad misfortune arrives,
la sorte e le passate tue vicende.
your fate and your past events.
(Ennio De Santis)
(freely translated by Luciano Loi)
Civita di Bagnoregio is a town in the Province of Viterbo in central Italy, a suburb of the comune of Bagnoregio, 1 kilometre (0.6 miles) east from it. It is about 120 kilometres (75 miles) north of Rome.
It is actually two remote towns. Civita is on a hill accessible only by a long stone walkway that begins at the end of the road from neighboring Bagnoregio. Once, Civita was the larger community and Bagnoregio the satellite. Today, Civita has only about 14 year-round residents, so few that Civita is nicknamed "the Dying City." Many of the buildings in Civita are being purchased by rich Italians who come here for vacation. However the town suffers constant erosion of its volcanic rock into the valley below.
The town is noted for its striking position atop a plateau of friable volcanic tuff overlooking the Tiber river valley. It is in constant danger of destruction as the edges of the plateau collapse due to erosion, leaving the buildings to crumble as their underlying support falls away. As of 2004, there were plans to reinforce the plateau with steel rods to prevent further geological damage.
The city is also much admired for its architecture spanning several hundred years. Civita di Bagnoregio owes much of its unaltered condition to its relative isolation; the town was able to withstand most intrusions of modernity as well as the destruction brought by two world wars. The population today varies from about 12 people in winter to more than 100 in summer.
Civita was founded by Etruscans more than 2,500 years ago. Civita was the birthplace of Saint Bonaventure, who died in 1274. The location of his boyhood house has long since fallen off the edge of the cliff. By the 16th century, Civita was beginning to decline, becoming eclipsed by its former suburb Bagnoregio.
At the end of the 17th century, the bishop and the municipal government were forced to move to Bagnoregio because of a major earthquake that accelerated the old town's decline. At that time, the area was part of the Papal States. In the 19th century, Civita's location was turning into an island and the pace of the erosion quickened as the layer of clay below the stone was reached in the area where today's bridge is situated. Bagnoregio continues as a small but prosperous town, while Civita became known in Italian as il paese che muore ("the town that is dying"). Civita has only recently been experiencing a tourist revival.
The town was placed on the World Monuments Fund's 2006 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites, because of threats it faces from erosion.
The long bridge into Civita is steep—and it gets steeper as it rises. This is a challenging climb for anyone not in particularly good shape.
Get in By car. The simplest way to get to Bagnoregio from Orvieto is to get on the autostrada and follow the signs to Lubriano and Bagnoregio. A more scenic route takes 20 minutes longer. From the freeway, pass under hill-capping Orvieto, with signs to Lago di Bolsena and Viale I Maggio on your right, and take the first left to Bagnoregio, winding through Canale and great Orvieto views.
Once you get into Bagnoregio, you can park either at the bus lot at the edge of town or at the base of the stone walkway. (Follow the yellow signs to Civita to reach the parking lot.) There is a parking charge of €1 an hour, which you can pay at the shop or the restaurant. Parking may be free on weekdays or off season when there's no attendant.
Alternately, you can walk from Bagnoregio to the Civita bridge (it takes about 20 minutes) or take a €1 yellow minibus (pay the driver) from the gas station to the base of the walkway. You can ascend to Civita only on foot, but taking the bus from Bagnoregio will cut your walking distance in half. One or two buses leave each hour, starting at 7:38AM Monday to Saturday and 8:53AM Sunday. The last bus leaves at 6:24PM
See: Romanesque Arch At the entrance to Civita, this arch was cut by the Etruscans 2,500 years ago.
Renaissance Palace remains All that remains of an old palace is the façade, the rest collapsed into the canyon from erosion of the hill Civita sits on.
Piazza, the site of donkey races on the first Sunday in June and the second Sunday of September. The columns are Etruscan. In the evening, the piazza is the place to be, as what's left of the town socializes there.
Church On the piazza, this church is on the site of an Etruscan temple, and after that a Roman temple. It has a fine campanile (bell tower), altar, and crucifix.
Maria's Garden Follow the main road to the far side of town to see a lovely garden with knockout canyon views. If the garden is open, Maria will greet you in a small piazza and urge you to see it. She shows the garden to visitors for pocket change; give her a euro or two.
Etruscan Caves A series of caves at the east end of town, one of which was made into a chapel, called the Chapel of the Incarcerated.
Do: In Bagnoregio, market day is on Monday in the gas station parking lot.
Buy: Small souvenirs and local products shop can give you a lot of ideas for your small presents.
Eat: Trattoria Antico Forno. Open daily 12:30 to 3:30PM and sporadically for dinner 7:30 to 10PM Also rents rooms; see Civita B&B under Sleep. edit
Osteria Boccadoro, ☎ +39 0761-780-775. Covered patio off main square. Open daily 12:30-5PM and 7-11PM edit
Hostaria del Ponte Great view from rooftop terrace at bottom of stone walkway into town. €6.50 pastas, reservations smart. Open Tuesday through Sunday 12:30-2:30PM and 7:30-9:30PM Closed Monday; November through April closed Sunday. Telephone 0761-793-565
Sleep: Civita B&B Run by Franco Sala, who also owns the Trattoria Antico Forno and Civita's only dog, the Civita B&B has three simple rooms overlooking the main square. A very basic, almost monastic accommodation.