Snapshots of a A Walk to Civita di Bagnoregio, an ancient hilltown in Italy reachable only by a pedestrian bridge.
So 2500 years ago, some very ingenious folks (Etruscans) built this city on top of a hill. Hill towns are a common theme in my travels around Italy, but Civita is special because you can only get there by walking a long bridge that takes you to the entrance that was dug into the rock before Jesus was born, though now it’s called Porta San Maria.The town’s seven residents are hanging on by a cliff (literally). Civita di Bagnoregio has been called ‘the dying city’ in Italy because of its propensity to lose pieces of itself to landslides.But erosion aside, Civita is experiencing a bit of a boom (probably due to Instagram), so while she is still standing in the clouds, you should consider the climb up to see her.I popped over for an early morning visit (first car in the parking lot!) after dropping my friends at the train station in Viterbo.I was just beginning the solo portion of my travels, so I was somewhere between missing my friends and talking myself into being excited to hit the road for a new adventure. (Solo travel requires that I do a lot of self-talk.)I enjoyed scooting through vineyards and olive trees in my little rented Fiat.
I was on my way to Orvieto, yet other Italian hilltown (there’s a bunch of them) and Civita di Bagnoregio was on the way.I liked making the long walk into the city, watching it come into view around a corner and climbing up the bridge.The town was quiet, just beginning to wake up for tourists: big square umbrellas being opened at tables, shutters banging open and waiters on scooters making the drive across the bridge.I followed every little crooked lane to peek out over the edges of the city walls into the valley below. I think I read that the geological formations surrounding the city are called the ‘Badlands.’ The chalky, smaller cliffs look like they’ve been made of sand and dust, like they could be knocked down in a light wind. It’s all strangely beautiful.At the far edge of the city, steps and a trail lead down one side of the cliff to a place that’s been dug out of the city (this can’t help with the erosion problem). It was a tomb back in Etruscan days, but has also served as a stable for farm animals and is now a little chapel.
As an American, everywhere you go in Europe is like ‘going back in time,’ so I hesitate to use that phrase but I saw things in Civita di Bagnoregio like a stone olive press and a wood-burning bread oven.In fact, on my way out, I saw a truck the size of a scooter bringing wood into the city, presumably for the oven. The next time I go, maybe I’ll arrive later in the day to taste the bread and oil on offer.
Before walking back to my car, I sat for a while on the wide, stone steps in the main square to rest, grateful for a gorgeous start to a new day.