11 inhabitants and reachable only through the pedestrian bridge… It may seem like a perfect place to reflect and to find yourself in another dimension. Here you can feel Etruscan, Roman or even Japanese. Of course, you will wonder what it has to do with Japanese while traveling in Italy?! Trust me, there is a specific reason! Are you curious enough?! We are going to a dying town not to be missed – Civita di Bagnoregio!
The origins of the name “Civita di Bagnoregio”
Civita di Bagnoregio è a suburb of Bagnoregio municipality situated between the river Tiber and Lake Bolsena, just 120 km north of Rome.
The Latin name “Balneum Regis” means “the King’s bath” in Italian and was given to the town for the nearby thermal fonts which, as the legend says, healed Lombard king Desiderius from the wounds of the war.
A bit of history
Civita di Bagnoregio has Etruscan origins and was founded 2500 years ago. The numerous tombs and findings in the nearby area, no doubt, witness it!
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the town passed first under the dominion of the Goths and then of the Longobards, until Charlemagne conceded it to the Papacy which later conceded it to the Monaldeschi family.
Saint Bonaventura – the pride of Bagnoregio
Of course, you will ask me why Saint Bonaventura?! After all, his real name was Giovanni Fidanza… Keep calm, I’ll reveal to you the secret! Giovanni was the son of a wealthy doctor and a woman very devoted to Saint Francis. When he was a child, he was at the point of death, but he miraculously healed due to his mother’s prayers! Since then the miraculous boy’s name became Bonaventura which means “good adventure” in Latin. Thus, Saint Francis had given him his life and he, in turn, consecrated his life to Saint Francis by entering into his order. Moreover, later he became the so-called “second founder of the Franciscan order”.
Referred to as Doctor Seraphicus, he taught at the Sorbonne in Paris and was a friend of Saint Thomas Aquinas.
The legend says that he was poisoned because the reforms he proposed, were too advanced. Bishop and cardinal, after his death he was canonized by Pope Sixtus IV in 1482 and proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Sixtus V in 1588. Still, now he is considered one of the most important biographers of St. Francis from Assisi. In fact, his biography – Legenda Maior – inspired Giotto for the cycle of stories dedicated to the Saint in the Basilica of Assisi.
A dying town and the story of three bridges
Civita is known as a dying town due to the erosion of its tuff rock caused by rain, wind and, no doubt, by two streams that flow at its base. Moreover, half a town collapsed in the terrible earthquake of 1695, which also destroyed the ancient road of Roman origin that led to the Civita.
To natural disasters were added those caused by man: in 1944 the German troops blew up the bridge – the last link between Civita and Bagnoregio. Some years later, in 1964, other landslides occurred and the newly built bridge collapsed just before the inauguration.
Today the town is accessed exclusively through a 300-meter long pedestrian reinforced concrete bridge, built in 1965.
Monuments worth sightseeing
San Donato Cathedral is the main church in Civita. It was built in the seventh century and renovated several times over the years. Inside there is a wonderful wooden Crucifix dated 15th century.
Saint Mary’s entrance gate, one of the symbols of Civita, is composed of two bas-reliefs with two lions holding two heads with their claws.
The Episcopal Palace is also worth seeing! It’s the birthplace of Giovanni Fidenza the so-called Bonaventura.
Among the beauties of Civita di Bagnoregio, there are also the surreal clayeys, formed spontaneously over the centuries. This and other natural wonders can be admired at the Geological Museum of Landslides.
Civita di Bagnoregio on television
There are several films set or shot in Civita di Bagnoregio such as “The Two Colonels” of 1963 with Totò, “Let’s Have a Riot” of 1970 with Alberto Sordi, the TV series Pinocchio of 2009 and some scenes of “Karma issue”, a film of 2017 with Fabio De Luigi. Furthermore, Civita di Bagnoregio appears in the initial scenes of the 2000 Brazilian soap opera “Our land”.
Do you know that Civita di Bagnoregio also comes out in the animation masterpiece “Castle in the Sky” created by Hayao Miyazaki? Since the film became famous, the number of Japanese visiting Civita di Bagnoregio has multiplied quite a lot. That’s why while there, surrounded by Japanese tourists, you feel a little bit Japanese as well!
Donkey race “La Tonna”
Donkey race “La Tonna” is also very impressive. It’s held on the first Sunday of June and the second in September, in which the districts of Civita challenge each other in a donkey race.
Who are the real inhabitants of Civita?! For the happiness of cat lovers!
This time the guardians of the place are not knights nor dragons, but they are the cats! The number of these feline creatures definitely exceeds that one of the humans! For crazy cat lovers like me, it’s a happy place! For sure, time spent admiring and shooting (mean, taking pictures! 🙂 ) cats is never wasted!
So, have a nice stay in Civita – an unforgettable treasure suspended in space, sometimes among the clouds… where the time seems to have stopped forever!
*these two photos were taken from google images
“Civita e Bagnoregio”, Maria Luisa Polidori, Bonechi Edizioni “il Turismo”;
“Escursionismo d’Autore nella Terra degli Etruschi. Viaggio nella Maremma laziale”, Giovanni Menechino, Laurum Editrice – 2011