Italy’s quintessential hill-top town is located just 60 miles northwest of Rome. Medieval Civita di Bagnoregio is perched high up on a hill over-looking the Tiber River Valley in the Lazio region. Founded over 2,500 years ago by one of Italy’s ancient civilizations (the Etruscans), Civita is connected to its more modern sister town (Bagnoregio) by a pedestrian bridge. As you begin your ascent along the bridge making your way to the town’s ancient entrance, you get the feeling that you’re going back in time – that your about to enter some mysterious place that belongs in a fairy tale. Occasionally the town sits above the morning mist – so it looks like its resting ever so gently on a cloud. One of the distinguishing characteristics of this small gem is that there are no cars, no trendy shops, and no busy streets. With the exception of a handful of locals (and a few cats) it’s basically uninhabited – nobody’s there! For this reason, it’s known as “il paese che muore” – the dying town. The population has been dwindling for years – leaving its tranquil confines frozen in time.
I visited Civita with my wife Marion last spring, and while it’s been gaining some popularity, we saw no more than a handful of visitors during our weekday visit. Walking through the ancient passage way into the town – it felt like we were in a dream. With its interesting architecture, silent stone alleyways, peace and serenity – Civita can be a welcomed respite from some of Italy’s more touristy towns. It has a small bed and breakfast, along with a restaurant or two - but just beyond the town’s small piazza is an ancient olive press. We sat in a charmingly rustic room while enjoying some fantastic bruschetta (toasted in a stone oven) and red house wine!
Our visit to this amazing little town will always rank as one of my all-time favorites - not just because of what I saw, but because of what I felt. Our lives are filled with crowded supermarkets, restaurants and movie theatres – busy offices and city streets. But for just a few hours during a beautiful spring afternoon – it was just the two of us – in a magical setting – a make believe place. It was truly a walk in the clouds.