Civita di Bagnoregio is a town in the Province of Viterbo, founded by the Etruscans over 2,500 years ago. This surreal and enchanting place can be reached only by crossing a pedestrian bridge. Due to its relative isolation, the town remained largely unaltered, withstanding most intrusions of modernity, as well as the destruction brought by two world wars. However, a devastating earthquake struck the town in the late 17th century, leaving it a virtual ghost town that now mainly subsists due to tourism.
The town came to be known as il paese che muore, the dying town of Civita di Bagnoregio because it is in constant danger of destruction, slipping away due to erosion. It is perched on top of a rock of tufa stone, which edges are slowly falling off, leaving the buildings on the plateau to crumble. The rock rests on layers of clay, eroded at the base under the continuous action of the two rivers in the valleys below as well as by the effect of rain and wind.
The town offers stunning views over the calanchi appennini, a strange, lunar-type landscape; a red tufa rock in the surrounding white clay sea. The difficulty of access, which almost caused it to become a ghost town, now makes it particularly attractive to people looking for a peaceful and quiet retreat.
The town was placed on the World Monuments Fund’s 2006 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites, due to the threats it faces from erosion and unregulated tourism.
See also: Ghost towns in Italy
Photo credits (top to bottom): first, fourth, fifth and last but one photo by Raffaele Birnardo; all other photos © James and Trish Jones.