The Crumbling Hilltop Town of Civita di Bagnoregio

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Civita di Bagnoregio is a small Italian hill town in the province of Viterbo, in central Italy. The town is located atop a pinnacle rising high above a vast canyon that is continuously being eroded by two streams flowing in the valleys below and by the action of rain and wind. This 2,500-years-old town is under constant threat of destruction as its edges are falling off, leaving the buildings built on the plateau to crumble.

Civita di Bagnoregio is actually two towns. Civita is on a hill accessible only by a long stone walkway that begins at the end of the road from neighbouring town Bagnoregio. Once, Civita was the larger community and Bagnoregio the satellite town. Today, Civita has only about 6 year-round residents determined to keep this little fragment of rock alive.

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Civita di Bagnoregio was founded by the Etruscans about 2.500 years ago. During that time, it was an important city for its position along an ancient road connected to a dense network of trade routes. Civita’s decay started in the 16th century triggered by a terrible earthquake which, causing serious damages to the roads and buildings, compelled many inhabitants to leave the city. The continuous seismic activities that followed in the course of the centuries, brought a long series of landslides. At the end of the 17th century, the bishop and the municipal government were forced to move to Bagnoregio, and by the 19th century, Civita was turning into an island. Bagnoregio continues as a small but prosperous town, while Civita became known in Italian as il paese che muore ("the town that is dying"). It’s only recently that Civita began experiencing a tourist revival.

Civita is a charming medieval town with architecture spanning several hundred years. The town’s isolation has allowed it to withstand most intrusions of modernity as well as the destruction brought by two world wars. Despite its nickname, during the tourist season, Civita bustles with day trippers.

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Sources: Wikipedia / www.civitadibagnoregio.it / Wikitravel / www.borghitalia.it

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