The secrets of the dying city: Civita di Bagnoregio
Known as "the dying city", Civita di Bagnoregio has experienced a new life, in the last years. This small village on the border between Umbria and Lazio, is literally reborn. Considered one of the most beautiful in Italy, it has recorded more than 800 thousand visitors, this year; paying the toll, they enriched the cases of the Comune, concurring, for example, to the accompaniment of disabled people service and to the creation of the first aid. The access to the country is actually to pay: 3 euros on the week days, and 5 on festivities. Money the Comune, usually, invests in services.
Why does the city die?
The definition comes directly from Bonaventura Tecchi, who defined this fabulous village in honor (or because) of the hill of tuff where rests, eroded by two small torrents, but also by the rain and the wind. Behind the country, there are the calanchi, the clay waves that leave space to enormous towers, like that one of the Montione and the so-called Cattedrale. A nickname, then, that today is the legend of Civita di Bagnoregio, founded over 2500 years ago, by the Etruscan's, perfectly summing up the uniqueness of the landscape.
A little bit of history
Civita di Bagnoregio is San Bonaventura - a Franciscan monk and philosopher - and the writer Bonaventura Tecchi's homeland. It seems this area was inhabited since the 9th century BC, according to archaeological findings. Anyway, his birth as a thriving city is due to the Etruscan's. Thanks to its strategic location for trade, it actually was crucial for the routes of the time. And you can still see some evidences by the Etruscan time, starting from Bucaione, a deep tunnel connecting the village to the Valle dei Calanchi. Much of it has been eroded by time and weather, and by earthquakes, too. The Romans made important works to channel rainwater, containing the torrents, too. Unfortunately, by the end of the Roman Empire, even Bagnoregio began to fade gradually, ending up in the hands of the Visigoths, then the Byzantines and Longboards, till it was given to the Church by Charlemagne. A terrible earthquake caused the ruin of the ancient village, giving way to a slow decline, in 1695.
The revival took place slowly. Earlier, in 2001, the Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki portrayed it in his film "La città incantata", causing streams of Japanese tourists in the small village, today representing the 20% of the total amount of them. Then, AirBnb chose it –recently - as a model for a new project of a hosting country in Italy, mixing private and public buildings to accommodate artists from all over the world. Finally, the regional Governor Zingaretti nominated it for being Unesco World Heritage site. In 2015, tourists were over 600,000 and in 2017, as we have seen, over 800,000. Exponential growth delivered this village to the history of the world.
The real name, Bagnoregio - that seems to literally derive from Bagno del Re, because this place once was a spa – hosted the King of the Longboards Desiderio, seriously ill.
The second fun fact lies in the population: in 2011, there were 16 people; today should be just 10 or even 7 of them. Moreover, the bridge to the village 300 meters long - exclusively for pedestrians - was built in 1965, after the Germans had blown up the previous one, in 1944, during the World War II. Another fun fact to know is that this village, so small and puny, hosted several films. There, "I due colonnelli", with Totò in 1962 were filmed, but also “Contestazione Generale” with Alberto Sordi, the fiction "Pinocchio", in 2009 and also "Questione di Karma" with Fabio De Luigi, this year. The last fun fact is the attempt to transform a death sentence in a rebirth reason, hosting the Museo delle Frane, indeed one-of-a-kind in the world, and trying to face the problem of the erosion also by structural interventions, supported by tourism itself. The walls of Civita di Bagnoregio are estimated to get 7 centimetres thinner every year, so the future of this place is not so safe, unfortunately.
What to see and what to do in Civita di Bagnoregio
It is a small and bewitched village, but there actually are many pearls to see, all wonderful ones. You enter the country by the Porta Santa Maria, dug in the cliff and attributed to the Vignola. There are many squares and noble palaces on the way to Piazza San Donato, where the cathedral dwells, former Duomo di San Donato - the most important church of the village, built in the V century, and restructured many times, by the strong participation Nicola Matteucci's, in 1500. The church hosts a wood crucifix considered miraculous. The public square is one-of-a-kind: the paving is made of rubble and earth, and it immediately gives the impression of being launched 400 years back in the past. The visit continues among narrow lanes and medieval courtyards, houses and little squares. In the recent years, tourism has given rise to many clubs, craft shops, restaurants and bed and breakfasts. The Palazzo Vescovile and the Cave of Bonaventura are worth to visit too. The cave consists in a chamber tomb dating back to Etruscan times, literally overlooking the valley, consequently become legendary. It is actually told San Bonaventura found shelter and there was miraculously cured by San Francesco, host of the ancient convent in the cave - today just a few remains are still there, unfortunately, because of the numerous landslides happened along the centuries. Just this miracle delivered the young Giovanni, future monk and philosopher, to the Church and to God.
Concerning the events, there are many it is worth to take part to. Every year, on the holy Friday, a procession takes place parading the wooden crucifix of the Chiesa di San Donato. The first Sunday of June, every year, the patron festivity takes place. The Palio dellaTonna is another interesting annual event, every first Sunday of June, and on the second of September, a real challenge on donkeys among the districts takes place. In the summer, there's the Tuscia Jazz Festival and, at Christmas, the country revives thanks to an evocative live Presepio.
Civita di Bagnoregio, how to get there
The location of Civita di Bagnoregio is very strategic. Placed halfway between Bolsena lake and the Tiber, it is situated in Lazio, in the province of Viterbo, but is close to the border of Umbria. Arriving from the north, you can exit the A1 toll road at Orvieto and follow the indications to Bagnoregio, less than 20 km. Arriving from the south, exit at Orte, instead of taking the superstrada to Viterbo, exit at Bagnaia-Montefiascone and go on SP Teverina till the village. Rome is just 100 kilometres far from there, less than two hours of travel.
Do you want to stay in Rome?
For this location we recommend Hotel Panama Garden, ideal for discovering Rome thanks to its strategic location.