Civita di Bagnoregio
When it comes to looks and authenticity, Civita easily takes the cake on hilltop towns in Italy. Founded by the Etruscans around 500 years before the Common Era, it was once a connected community, with donkey trails leading to and from neighbouring towns. Over time, earthquakes and erosion have worn away at the land surrounding the village, causing roads, homes, and workplaces to crumble into the Tiber Valley.
Like many ancient cities, the town transferred hands throughout the years according to who was in power at the time. The centrepiece of the town, which is now the Catholic Church, was once a Roman Temple and before that an Etruscan place or worship. Remains of past eras can be identified in the varying architecture from the moment you step foot into town, passing under the Etruscan archway. Cut-off Roman pillars still surround the base of the Catholic Church, and changes in the brickwork of homes give clues to when they were built.
"The dying town", as it has been dubbed, has a year-round population of about 10 people and a few more cats. Most of the homes are owned as a second residence by vacationers and the few shop, hotel, or restaurant workers serving the tourists typically live in nearby Biagnoregio.
Today the only access to the village is by a pedestrian bridge that is about 8 feet wide. Supplies are bussed in and out on mini moped-like trucks which pin tourists single file against the rail when passing by. Visitors often come for a few hours to snap some pictures and maybe enjoy a light meal before returning across the bridge to continue their Italian tour. Because of its limited vehicular access, the hilltop village is said to be frozen in time, not being overrun by modern day commercialism.
I can picture the evenings in Civita being the prime time to really experience the town with a reference to death in it's nickname. I can just imagine sitting out on a terrace overrun by ivy, watching the sun set and enjoying a cool breeze on my skin. The only sounds would be that of an artist at work down the road, an elderly woman preparing a meal in her kitchen with her windows wide open, and a cat meowing for a piece of the cheese I'm nibbling on. I wonder the stories that those ancient stone walls would tell if they could talk.
I would love to return to Civita, but this time stay for a few days. I want to take time to soak in the community, talk to the locals, and attempt to find out just what it is that keeps this dying town alive.