Italy is undoubtedly a vibrant country, full of people and vitality. So, it will surprise you to discover that there are cities that are literally dying.
Abandoned by their citizens, there are some cities in Italy that have become ghosts of their past, forgotten and left to themselves. Civita di Bagnoregio is one of them.
Its History and Isolation
Born about 2500 years ago by the Etruscans, Civita was built in an area particularly susceptible to erosion. And it is this erosion, combined with a strong earthquake in 1695, that has shaped the territory into what it is today: a small “island” of land in the middle of a valley, called the Valley of the Badlands.
Completely isolated from the mainland, Civita di Bagnoregio is now reachable thanks to a reinforced concrete pedestrian bridge built in 1965. The continuous erosion of the surrounding territory has led to its isolation, reducing the resident population to only 11 people.
Despite its isolation, Civita has found a new rebirth in tourism. Over time, tourism has discovered Civita as a fascinating destination, shrouded in mystery and silence. Furthermore, its position in the center of the valley allows for unique views of the badlands.
What to See
In addition to the beautiful panorama and the silent, winding alleys of small Civita, there are still notable buildings and works in the city.
The only entrance to the city is Porta Santa Maria, the first noteworthy work of the city. Also known as Porta Cava, it was carved into the tuff during the Etruscan era. Despite the various changes it has undergone through the different ages of the city, one thing remains unchanged: it provides access to the open-air museum that is now Civita di Bagnoregio.
Continuing to the right, you can reach the house of San Bonaventura, which now appears only as a ruin. Its importance, in fact, is not due to the structure but to the figure of San Bonaventura himself: considered one of the most important biographers of St. Francis of Assisi, it was from his Legenda Maior that Giotto drew inspiration for the cycle of stories about the saint in the Basilica of Assisi.
In the central square, there are also the Church of San Donato and Palazzo Alemanni-Mazzocchi. Inside the church, the Donatello school’s wooden crucifix is preserved, with a magnetic gaze of Christ: by standing in front of the crucifix, one can see Jesus still alive, standing to the left, Jesus appears in agony, and finally, seeing it from the right, Jesus is immersed in the sleep of death. It’s a work of art that certainly deserves a few minutes of visit. In the Palazzo, on the second floor, the Geological and Landslide Museum is housed; a useful visit to learn more about the territory and the geological past of the city.
After wandering through the city, taking photographs of the most romantic and secluded views, head towards the end of the village, and you will find the Chapel of the Madonna of the Prison. This small cave is all that remains of the Contrada Carcere after the earthquake of 1695.
Not far from here, you can also have a beautiful view of the badlands by visiting the Garden of the Poets. Managed by a farm that requires a voluntary contribution for entry or the purchase of typical products, it is a small flower-filled corner with an attached panorama.
Since 2013, there is an entrance fee to Civita, the ticket costs €5 for those above 6 years old and can also be purchased online.
There are two ticket offices: one in Piazzale Battaglini, and the other is located just before the pedestrian bridge that leads to the city. In Piazzale Battaglini, there are also parking lots, and from here, a shuttle will take you to the entrance. Some parking spaces are also available directly at the bridge entrance, and during low-traffic periods, you can try your luck.
As mentioned earlier, the bridge is pedestrian, except for some exceptions to meet the needs of merchants and residents. It is well paved and comfortable to walk, even with a stroller.
The ticket offices are open from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM; outside of these hours, admission is free.