That was the first word out of my mouth when my eyes first caught a glimpse of this village. It was also the word that was repeatedly used walking throughout Civita di Bagnoregio. This town's history and survival is so amazing, I can't believe that it took me so long to discover it.
The town sits on top of a hill between two valleys. The hill is made up of tufa (a soft volcanic rock) that formed after a series of volcanic eruptions. This solidified lava sits on a bed of clay and sand. The terrain is particularly unstable and with its continual erosion, landslides have occurred swallowing up the outer parts of the village until only the most central part remains.
Civita was founded about 2,500 years ago by the Etruscans and was an important city along an ancient road connecting trade routes. Its decay became serious in 1695 when a major earthquake caused severe damages to roads and buildings forcing many inhabitants to leave the city. Continued seismic activities brought about more landslides, leaving Civita nearly desolate. Today, only a handful of people attempt to keep this village alive, thusly dubbing it the "dying city."
The city continues to collapse. It is estimated that 10 landslides have occurred in the past year with rain being the primary cause. Efforts are under way by the local government to develop a plan for reinforcing and protecting the village. In the meantime, tourism has picked up and restaurants and gift shops catering to those visitors keep the city alive.
Getting to Civita di Bagnoregio requires a car. Driving about 75 miles north of Rome, head towards Bagnoregio. Once inside the newer town, follow signs directing you to "Civita." As you drive through town, it often feels as if you are going the wrong way, but continue on until the road ends into a parking lot. Here, you will need to find the parking meter, purchase a ticket and place the ticket on your dashboard.
From the parking lot, take the steps down to the road. Continue down the hill to the footbridge where you will pay a small fee to enter the city.
The footbridge can be quite steep, and the walk back to the parking lot is a challenge. Take it slow--the effort is well worth it!
Take special note of the main entrance that was cut by the Etruscans 2,500 years ago. Inside the gate is a photographer's and artist's dream. Sneak off the main path to discover magnificent views, flowered terraces and beautiful passageways. You won't want to leave!
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