Civita di Bagnoregio in Italy is a stunning example of a medieval city left relatively untouched by modernity. It is located 145 km (90 mi) north of Rome on the boarder of Lazio and Umbria about 20km (12 mi) south of Orvieto .
Known as ‘Il paese che muore’ - the dying town – Civita di Bagnoregio sits atop a rocky outcrop that stands between two valleys. The erosion caused over the centuries changed this once thriving settlement into an isolated citadel and Civita di Bagnoregio now only has a handful of residents. It is accessible only by a remarkable foot-bridge, leaving the town closed to all motorized traffic.
Believed to have been founded around 500BC, Civita di Bagnoregio was originally an Etruscan settlement and sat along an important trade route that was once the main Etruscan road leading to the Tiber Valley and Rome. Later falling under Roman rule, the area was conquered by the Lombards after the fall of the Western Empire. In fact, the city was once known as Balneum Regis – meaning ‘the bath of the king’, as the Lombard King Desiderious had his wounds treated by the hot springs in the area.
Passing later to the Franks and then becoming part of the Papal states, Civita di Bagnoregio is also known for being the birthplace of Saint Bonaventure (475-525) who is considered the father of western religious thought, though the location of his boyhood house has long since fallen off the edge of the cliff.
An earthquake in 1695 started the decline of Civita di Bagnoregio as many inhabitants began to leave. After further earthquakes and more significant damage occurred the bishop and the municipal government were forced to move to Bagnoregio. In the following decades and centuries the seismic activity, landslides and erosion saw the Civita di Bagnoregio virtually abandoned as more and more of the city was destroyed.
In the 19th century, Civita's location was turning into an island and the pace of the erosion quickened as a layer of clay located below the stone was reached in the area where today's bridge is located. Bagnoregio continues as a small but prosperous town, while Civita became known as il paese che muore
Today Civita di Bagnoregio’s unique history, location and architecture has seen it become a tourist attraction and efforts have been made to try to preserve this historic location. However, Civita di Bagnoregio remains on the list of the 100 Most Endangered Sites.
Visitors to Civita di Bagnoregio can see a number of interesting sites as well as the exceptional architecture on display. The fascinating ‘Eutruscan Corridor’ is a Eutruscan tunnel that completely crosses the town. Also worth a visit is the Cave Of Saint Bonaventure, an ancient olive-press and Saint Donato's Church.