I’ve been staring at this post for about ten minutes and am still struggling to find a way to describe the Civita di Bagnoregio. When we were trying to decide where to live in Italy, all we knew was that we wanted to be in the heart of Tuscany. I think I Googled ‘small charming Italian town’ or something similar and ended up stumbling across Bagnoregio. Well, ‘small charming Italian town’ starts to cover it, but as you can tell from the photos, Bagnoregio is the kind of place that embodies ‘picturesque’…you really do have to see it to believe it.
Bagnoregio is divided into two parts: “old Bagnoregio” (the Civita) and “new Bagnoregio” (outside the Civita). We laughed when the owner of our apartment told us we were staying in “new” Bagnoregio, because our apartment building alone dated (I think) back to the 16th century.
The Civita is over two thousand years old, having been founded by Etruscans possibly as far back as the 8th century BC. It’s situated in the Calanchi Valley (eroded clay hills), where it was built because it was considered more easily defensible from its situation on a hill (as opposed to along the river, where it would have been more vulnerable to flood and disease).
The Civita has a number of nicknames, most of them including the word ‘dying,’ (il paese che muore, ‘the town that is dying,’ or ‘the dying city’) because the hill it sits on is made of volcanic ash and is slowly eroding. (The building in the fifth and sixth photos from the top is actually not a building, but just the face of a building that leads to nowhere…the outside has fallen off into the surrounding valley.) “New” Bagnoregio was formed when the townspeople started moving outside the Civita for fear that their houses would tumble into the valleys below…a valid fear, as the Civita shrinks. It’s been enforced with steel rods to try and preserve it, but it’s still a bit tenuous and not many people live there full-time…
The Civita is said to have a full-time population of just ten people (!), though the population increases in the summer, including a few tourists who stay overnight. Our apartment was just a ten minute walk from the entrance to the Civita, but the walk across the footbridge was intense…you definitely need to have comfortable shoes on. There are two great viewing spots where you can see the Civita in all its glory before embarking on the long walk to the city. It’s breathtaking from afar, and the inside of the Civita is equally as stunning, with a ton of ivy-covered stone homes and cliffs that drop off into stunning views of the Tuscan hills. We spent a month in Bagnoregio and haven’t stopped talking about it since.