Awestruck by Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy

Town of Civita di Bagnoregio

On occasion, I come across a view so amazing and awe-inspiring that I have trouble believing that it’s real. As if someone had painted what I was seeing on a canvas. That’s how I felt when I first laid eyes on Civita di Bagnoregio. This tiny, and I mean tiny, village is the definition of hill-top, sitting on a hill surrounded on all sides by valleys. This means that it’s somewhat remote but painfully picturesque.

In the depths of winter in January, I had jumped on an early morning bus from Orvieto to head south and see Civita di Bagnoregio on the northern edge of the Lazio region. My decision to head there comes with a small admission: I learned of Civita di Bagnoregio while watching the Amazing Race, a guilty pleasure of mine. I’m pretty sure I’d seen a photo of it also on Instagram, but it was the globetrotting reality series that lodged it firmly on my mind and on my list of places to go.

View to Civita di Bagnoregio

Anyway, I rode the bus to the nearby commune of Bagnoregio, basically the modern equivalent to Civita di Bagnoregio. See, while Civita di Bagnoregio dates back to the Etruscan period over 2,500 years ago, the town began to fall into decline in the 16th and 17th centuries. When an earthquake hit at the end of the 17th century, most of the population relocated to the Bagnoregio. So when I say Bagnoregio is modern, I mean several hundred years old…. modern for Italy.

From the centre of Bagnoregio it was just a short walk and I found myself at the first of many, many viewpoints looking out to the east towards the historic spot. I’d chosen to visit in the early morning in part because the buses from Orvieto weren’t that frequent but also for the light. It was sure worth it as it seemed to glow with the light from the low sun and there was nary a person in sight.

Bridge of Civita di Bagnoregio

That the view over to Civita di Bagnoregio was so still is fitting, given that it basically became a ghost town for centuries. After the earthquake, it soon became known as the “The Dying City”, both from people leaving and from the ever-increasing erosion gnawing at the town’s rocky foundations. Thankfully, it has seen a small revival in the last 10 or so years with efforts to preserve this historical gem from ruin. Still, it is said to have fewer than 10 actual residents.

Gate of Civita di Bagnoregio

Once I had taken my gazillionth photo from the viewpoint by the Caffe Belvedere, I trotted down the staircase to the road leading to the ticket booth just before the bridge. Entry to the town only costs 1.5€, literally a small price to pay to see the town and help fund its preservation. From there it was up onto the bridge to cross the valley and head up into town. Now I mentioned earlier that it was winter and early morning, so it was about 0ºC and out on the bridge the wind was blowing a gale, so it was probably about -8ºC with windchill factor. Brrr.

Streets of Civita di Bagnoregio

Having worked my way up across the bridge of a Thousand Icy Winds (not it’s official, or unofficial, name), I found myself at the town’s main gate. Considering it’s location, having fortifications like this means that Civita di Bagnoregio must have been incredibly secure back in the day. Security isn’t such an issue nowadays however and the gateway was draped in an array of sheets, which I thought was a nice touch.

Houses of Civita di Bagnoregio

From there it was into town, wandering along the cold and empty streets. I feel like the weather and absence of people really sold me on the atmosphere of a “dying city” and don’t think I would have had it any other way. The  town’s buildings and houses have been kept in the wonderful medieval style that they were built in over 500 years ago, as the Renaissance seemingly failed to make its way up to Civita di Bagnoregio. This means that aside from the odd car or electric cart, you really do feel like you’re stepping back in time.

Side Street, Civita di Bagnoregio

Eventually I did come across a few locals gardening and setting up, but aside from that, everything everywhere was closed and quiet. I did notice a handful of cafes and restaurants, as well as a few guesthouses and hotels, but I could count on one hand the number of other tourists I saw in town. Considering in 2015 the town saw around 500,000 visitors that’s pretty lucky. An empty town meant that I could take plenty of shots of the town’s street and houses, many covered in creeping vines.

Landscape of Civita di Bagnoregio

One thing that I hadn’t heard about Civita di Bagnoregio beforehand was the incredible surrounding landscapes you could find there. Looking out eastward from the town you could see fascinating ripples of sandstone ridges that reminded me a little of the Sand Pyramids of Melnik in southern Bulgaria. I haven’t been able to find much info on these unusual geological features but not to worry, they’re still eye-catching regardless.

The town really is quite small and after an hour or so, I had explored every nook and cranny. As I made my way back to the commune of Bagnoregio I passed more and more tourists, so it seems to start getting a busier after 9am. It may not have been a big visit, just a morning in fact, but that’s all you need to see this insanely scenic spot and enjoy the view of Civita di Bagnoregio.

Rear View Civita di Bagnoregio

 

Tips:

  • If taking the bus, buy your ticket in Orvieto from the bar at the train station and in Bagnoregio from the tobacconist just over the road;
  • Situated in the Lazio region, it’s also possible to get here from Rome, although you have to take the train to Orvieto first;
  • If going in winter, rug up as it can get really cold, especially with the wind;
  • Bring your camera, you’re going to need it!

 


Have you been to, or heard of Civita di Bagnoregio before? Where have you been that has simply left you awestruck? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Why Not Pin It for Later

Known as the Dying City, Civita di Bagnoregio is a picturesque hilltop town in the Lazio Region of Italy, via @travelsewhere

 


This post is part of Wanderful Wednesday at SnowinTromso and Weekend Travel Inspiration at Albom Adventures. Please head on over for more great posts.

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13 Comment

  1. Wow, just wow! The landscape surrounding the tiny town is just amazing. I can’t believe that only about 10 residents live there, so cool but errie at the same time!

  2. I’m pretty sure you wrote this just for me so I could read it! I’ve been waiting for this post and it’s just as beautiful and amazing and thrilling to read as on IG! And for the record, I JUMPED at the chance to read this the moment I saw it, when I was JUST about to sit down and start preparing my for tomorrow’s classes. Priorities! 🙂 Pinned as uuuusual! #WanderfulWednesday

  3. This just looks like something out of a historical drama – I can hear the sweeping music playing as the camera pans around the vista, and our hero thunders down the cobblestone streets on his horse. Beautiful!

  4. Ruth says:

    That is quite a town. I was going to ask if people live there but you answered the question. Looks very charming. I think it was a good idea to visit off season. I imagine how different the place can be when the streets are clogged with people. #wanderfulwednesday

  5. sarahccbence says:

    Could look at these views forever – they are beautiful! I would really like to get back to Italy soon 🙂

  6. Tanja says:

    beautiful town! #wanderlustwednesday

  7. Cynthia says:

    This town looks amazing – I love those Italian villages where you can just wander for days and find the most fascinating things.

  8. What a fascinating place. I’ve never heard of it before. I love that it has kept its medieval charm. I can’t believe there are less than 10 people living there!

  9. Thanks for your photos of this hidden jewel. I like old stone towns. I lived in such a place for a while in Spain. I think enduring the cold made for a great vacant location for your photos.

  10. Wow! Stunning! I’ve got to go here. Thanks for linking up this week! #wkendtravelinspiration

  11. Ooh I’ve pinned this, as this is an area I would really like to explore. What a beautiful town, I wander for days…

  12. I visited in about September and they were setting up for a donkey palio (horse race) the next day! I love that while there may be very few locals left the traditions are still alive. Sadly tourism might damage this town more than we think 🙁

  13. Wherejogoes says:

    Totally spectacular views I can see why you were awestruck by it! It looks like it is in the middle of nowhere! I love medieval villages with winding passages. #wkendtravelinspiration

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