Exploring the Enchanting Gem of Italy: Civita di Bagnoregio
Nestled in the picturesque region of Lazio, Italy, lies a hidden treasure that seems to have emerged from the pages of a fairytale: Civita di Bagnoregio. This captivating hilltop village, perched on a crumbling cliff, offers a glimpse into the rich history and awe-inspiring beauty of the Italian countryside. With its fascinating past, breathtaking views, and a charm that is simply irresistible, Civita di Bagnoregio promises an unforgettable experience.
Unveiling the History
This ancient village traces its roots back over 2,500 years, making it one of the oldest continually inhabited settlements in Italy. Originally founded by the Etruscans, Civita di Bagnoregio later became a thriving medieval town.
Over the centuries, the village has faced many challenges most of which stem from earthquakes and erosion. Because of its isolation from the mainland, many residents chose to leave the village for easier access to employment.
In the past, it was nicknamed, the "Dying City," reflecting the village's delicate state and its constant battle against nature's forces. But, due to Rick Steve's and other travel documentaries, the island on the hill has been rejuvenated. Former residents returned home to join those that stayed in making their town an "Authentic Italy" destination. Today, Civita di Bagnoregio stands as a testament to human resilience and the enduring spirit of its inhabitants.
Experiencing the Highlights
Once you actually cross the modern-day bridge and set foot in Civita di Bagnoregio, be prepared to be mesmerized by its still intact medieval structures and breathtaking vistas. As you stroll through its narrow cobblestone streets, you'll encounter hidden gems at every turn. It is my favorite part of the visit.
Your journey begins with the famous pedestrian bridge, known as the "Bridge of Heaven." This remarkable structure connects the village to the outside world and offers a jaw-dropping view of the surrounding valley. Be prepared for an acute ascent near the entrance of the village. Take your time and enjoy the valley breezes and the view.
The Porta Santa Maria
Collect your breath at the top of the bridge, pass through the ancient gate, and enter the heart of the village. Stone benches that have stood in time welcome you to take a break before entering Civita (as the locals call it). A short stroll inside finds you at the central square, Piazza San Donato, adorned with charming cafes and shops. Take a moment to soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the vibrant energy of this enchanting place.
Discover the beauty of the Romanesque Cathedral of San Donato, a magnificent structure dating back to the 12th century. Admire its intricate facade and step inside to explore its simple interior, adorned with a few remaining frescoes and some glorious sculptures.
Look for the historical presentation, on the right after you enter, for fascinating insight into how they use the latest technology to survey both inside the stone mountain as well as the structural soundness of the buildings of Civita (most especially the church).
For a truly awe-inspiring experience, make your way to the Belvedere viewpoint. Don't worry everything inside the village is not far away. From here, you'll be treated to a panoramic vista that stretches across the Tiber Valley, revealing the mesmerizing landscape of rolling hills and green fields.
Where to Eat in Civita di Bagnoregio
No journey through Italy is complete without indulging in its culinary delights, and Civita di Bagnoregio is no exception. Despite its small size, the village boasts a handful of charming eateries that offer a delectable taste of local flavors. Here are two of my favorites:
Osteria al Forno
Step into this cozy restaurant and prepare to be treated to a delightful culinary journey. Osteria al Forno serves up traditional Italian dishes with a creative twist. Indulge in homemade pasta dishes, succulent meats, and mouthwatering desserts, all crafted with locally sourced ingredients. The warm ambiance and friendly service will make your dining experience truly memorable.
La Cantina di Arianna
Open daily for lunch and dinner, this restaurant is a stone’s throw from Piazza San Donato in the town center. This cozy restaurant is operated by a Civita native who is happy to talk about his birthplace and its history. The "feels like home" not-so-fancy restaurant is also easy on the pocketbook.
For an authentic taste of the region, make your way to Taverna Bistrot. Dive into their seasonal menu filled with delightful dishes that highlight the flavors of the Lazio region. From the pistachio spaghetti to tiramisu, each bite will transport you to the heart of Italian cuisine. Enjoy your meal with one of their wines or craft beers and friendly service.
Opening Hours and Entrance Fees
Civita di Bagnoregio is a place where time seems to slow down, and it's important to plan your visit accordingly.
The town is generally open to visitors throughout the year, but it's essential to check the specific opening hours before your visit. Due to its delicate state and erosion concerns, Civita di Bagnoregio may limit the number of visitors allowed at any given time.
To support the preservation efforts of this unique village, there is a small entrance fee to enter Civita di Bagnoregio. As of my last visit (September 2023), the fee is €5 per person. You can inquire and purchase tickets at the tourist information center (at the entrance to the pedestrian bridge) upon your arrival.
How to Get There
Getting to Civita di Bagnoregio is an adventure in itself, as the village is located atop a craggy hill, isolated from the mainland.
If you're traveling by car, you can reach Civita di Bagnoregio from Rome or Florence by driving approximately 120 kilometers. The journey takes around two hours, depending on traffic conditions.
There are parking lots available on the outskirts of the village (under the pedestrian bridge), and from there, you walk across the bridge.
If you prefer public transportation, you can take a train from Rome or Florence to Orvieto, a nearby city. From Orvieto, buses are available to transport you to Civita di Bagnoregio. The bus ride takes around 30 minutes, offering scenic views of the countryside along the way.
No longer a "Dying City," Civita has been resurrected by its charming restaurants and cozy BandB scene. Civita di Bagnoregio is a hidden gem in the Italian countryside that invites travelers with its rich history and breathtaking beauty to stay a little longer.
I hope you get the chance to visit this enchanting village, where time seems to stand still.
The Way To Italy has been providing fee-based, custom travel planning for travelers to Italy for 23 years. I handcraft once-in-a-lifetime Italy experiences down to the last detail.