After three wonderful days in Orvieto, we decide to venture to Civita di Bagnoregio, because who can’t get enough of villages built on top of extinct volcanic rocks that overlook the Tiber river valley? It’s in Viterbo, in central Italy, a couple of hours from Rome and Orvieto. We took a 2 hour bus from the Orvieto bus station to Bagnoregio, which was stunning, as it crawled through the beautiful wine valleys.
We hadn’t done our research, and didn’t really know what to expect, so we booked to stay a night in the town of Banoregio (we were probably the only travellers to ever do this), and take a full day to explore Civita. Once we got off the bus at Bagnoregio we walked for about 15 minutes until we reached the town.
It was honestly one of the most surreal views I’ve ever seen. At the top of an extinct volcano, which is situated against vast hills and valley, a medieval village was built. It was founded by the Etruscans 2,500 years ago and was evacuated by its residents due to earthquakes that ruined the city. Only recently have tourists ‘rediscovered’ this place.
It’s all made out of stone, and it looks like it would have looked hundreds of years ago. We were there in mid-June, and there was hardly anyone there but us! It’s probably a bit out of the way, and also an off-the-beaten-track kind of experience, and I felt lucky to be here.
Connecting this medieval fantasy to the city, is this stone-built steep bridge, probably a kilometre in length (note: uphill), which you have to pay a small toll to walk across. It seemed to be locally managed, and the toll was cheap enough, so we weren’t too fussed by it.
When we crossed the bridge (and it does take longer than you think), it felt like we had gone back 100 years. No one lives here, but they’ve done it up for visitors, with a couple of charming little cafes selling a strange dairy ice-cream local to the region. There were plenty of cats who seemed to rule the place, basking in the sun and jumping from rooftops.
The views were spectacular, hills and valleys as far as the eye can see, with the odd little wooden villa in the distance. We spent hours walking around the abandoned settlements, and I was very impressed by the maintenance. Gardens were trimmed, flowers were everywhere, and it was very clean. Each corner of the town boasted spectacular views, and it was worth spending a few hours there.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the town around it which was pretty grim and, much like it’s main attraction, abandoned. No jokes, the only place open for dinner (because even the supermarkets were closed ) was a petrol station, where the guy running it, heated up some pizza for us, and whipped out two chairs and put them in the street that overlooked the people filling their cars up. Great hospitality! And the AirBnB hostess who had us was absolutely lovely. We must have paid £10 for a huge apartment to ourselves that was fully stocked with free food and supplies, and she introduced us to her whole family.
I would recommend anyone who is going to Italy to get off the beaten track and venture to Civita for the day. It was recently placed on the ‘the 100 Most Endangered Sites’ due to low tourism and erosion, so who knows how much longer it will persist.