Looking over your shoulder for the better part of two-and-a-half millennium is probably not the best way to cope with Mother Nature. But, that’s exactly what the tiny village of Civita di Bagnoregio has been doing since the innovative Etruscans discovered a rocky peak far from the madding crowd and decided to call it home.
Surviving more than 2,500 years of wind and erosion, Civita sits strikingly atop a pinnacle of slowly crumbling friable volcanic tuff that overlooks the Tiber River Valley in the province of Viterbo in the Lazio Region of Central Italy. Not surprising, Civita is referred to by Italians as
il paese che muore (the dying town).
It’s relative isolation has actually helped Civita survive for as long as it has, but, if left unregulated, the increase in foot traffic from squads of curious day-trippers could actually send Civita over the edge, literally. In 2006, the World Monuments Fund placed Civita on its endangered list, citing the constant threat from erosion and unregulated tourism.
Because of its precarious situation, Civita has watched its population dwindle to a select few — about 12 residents in winter and just over 100 in summer.
Along with its famous topography, Civita is the birthplace of its most heralded son, St. Bonaventure, the 13th century Franciscan friar and noted theologian. His home is long gone, but the basic layout of Civita survives, with the Church of San Donato as its centerpiece.
Civita di Bagnoregio, one of Italy’s prettiest villages and her most fragile. If you plan to visit, don’t wait too long. The days of
il paese che muore are numbered. It’s just a matter of time. A photographer’s dream come true, the town is a living snapshot of the Etruscan, Roman and Medieval eras. Each step and turn along its cobblestone paths holds a surprise.
Tom is a veteran print-broadcast journalist who resides in the Colli Euganei (Euganean Hills) in the province of Padova in the Veneto region of northestern Italy. He hosts the eclectic travel/foodie/photography blog
, is a regular contributor to Los Angeles-based The Palladian Traveler.com , and is a member of the TravelingBoy.com . Feel free to follow Tom as he “meanders along the cobblestone to somewhere.” International Travel Writers Alliance