Civita di Bagnoregio is a mystical, magical city. Inhabited by only 14 full time residents, it is located deep in the Umbrian hill country. The city rises from the Canyon below almost totally isolated from the civilization around it. The last bridge to the city was bombed in World War II. A single narrow foot path was built after the war to reconnect the town to its neighbor, Bagnoregio.
Civita di Bagnoregio was constructed in the 8th century by Etruscans and was, for a time, part of the Etruscan’s principle route to Rome. Entry into the town is accomplished by climbing the steep roadway on foot, or relying on a motorcycle or motor scooter. It is a tourist destination only for the adventurous and the strong. The trek is almost impossible for the frail or those with small children. For visitors willing and able to climb to Civita, the journey ends by walking through the city gate, carved from the stone over 2500 years ago.
The isolation of Civita results from the ongoing erosion of the rock on which the town was built so many centuries ago. Because there are so few remaining residents in a town large enough to a far larger population, it is sometimes identified as the “City of the Dead”. But for those of us who visit, Civita offers a rare opportunity to experience a lifestyle that is, almost literally, from an ancient time. Only the few tourists, and the occasional motorcycle, give us any clue that we are living in the 21st century instead of the middle ages.
The inaccessibility of this destination is a testament to the tenacity of its residents. There are more restaurants than residents. Visitors are few, but those who enter Civita are fortunate to visit a town almost totally untouched by the outside world. Restaurants serve food that is hearty and filling. It is cooked from simple ingredients over the heat of small, open fires. Cold drinks are in short supply. The architecture of the town is truly unique, even in a country of ancient buildings.
If you want an experience of a lifetime, visit Civita di Bagnoregio. You won’t be sorry.