Civita di Bagnoregio Italy — A Fairytale Town

Civita di Bagnoregio Italy, the “Town of the Royal Bath”, is a small village located in the central part of the country accessed by a footbridge from a nearby town.  Located in the “Valley of the Badlands” in the municipality of Bagnoregio and the province of Viterbo. Civita di Bagnoregio Italy

Inhabited by only sixteen (16) people, it is isolated because of the erosion of the hill and nearby valley. Because of its unstable foundation, it is called “the dying city”.

Some History on Civita di Bagnoregio Italy

Founded 2500 years ago by the Etruscans, the city of Civita could be accessed by five (5) city gates. Now only Porta Santa Maria (also called Porta Cava) is the main gateway into the city. It can also be accessed from the Valley of the Badlands through a tunnel carved through the rock.

The architecture is medieval and Renaissance, while the street system originates in Etruscan and Roman urban planning. The city flourished under the Etruscans due to its strategic position for trade and proximity to the vital c communication routes during that era,

The Romans arrived in 265 B.C. and they continued to build on the infrastructure started by the Etruscans such as stream containment and rainwater drainage.

Saint Bonaventure was born here.

The city started to decline in the 16th century as its former suburb, Bagnoregio continued to grow. Toward the end of the 17 century, an earthquake devastated the city, and the municipal government and the bishop moved to Bagnoregio.

By the 19th century, the pace of erosion increased turning the city into an island. Although Bagnoregio has continued to prosper Civita di Bagnoregio has only recently experienced some increase in tourism.

Some Interesting Facts

  • there are more cats in the city than residents (16)
  • the footbridge was built in 1965
  • a toll for the footbridge was instituted in 2013 and as a result, communal taxes were eliminated
  • the city is located in the Valley of the Badlands just east of Lake Bolsena
  • landslides and erosion developed in this region; clay is the base layer while the top layers are lava and tuff (volcanic ash lithified into solid rock)
  • it is located on top of a plateau overlooking the Tiber River Valley
  • its architecture spans several hundred years including several medieval homes
  • the village is busy with visitors in the summer months and has a good number of bed and breakfasts
  • due to erosion and unregulated tourism, the village is on the 2006 Watch List for the 100 most endangered sites
  • in addition to tourism, the village’s economy has been boosted when used as a movie set for several films
  • a pre-Roman tunnel was built below the town that was used during World War II as a bomb shelter

Things to Do in Civita di Bagnoregio Italy


* Viterbo Cathedral — built in the 1100s on the hilltop of Piazza San Lorenzo, it was rebuilt in the 16th century and then restored again after bomb damage from World War II. It is now part of a medieval complex comprising a museum, loggia, and papal palace.

* Orvieto Underground — dating back 2500 years this network of caves and tunnels holds a wealth of history on the Etruscan era.

* Duomo di Orvieto — this Gothic structure is in the Old Town of Orvieto. This 13th-century cathedral with a classic religious facade was actually built as a shrine

* St. Patrick’s Well — originally built to source water this cliff-top structure was built under the request of Pope Clement VII. Walk the stairwells that are pockmarked with internal windows that reveal much of Orvieto’s history.

* Sacro Bosco — also known as Parco dei Mostri (Park of the Monsters) was created in 1552. Prince Vicino Orsini had it built as a memorial to his deceased wife. It was refurbished in the mid-1900s and has well-manicured gardens with several 16th-century-style sculptures.

* Lake Bolsena — one of Europe’s biggest crater lakes it is the fifth (5th) largest lake in Italy. Surrounded by volcanic sand beaches it is a great place for water sports and other recreational activities. There are also a few interesting villages and towns close by to visit.

* Civita di Bagnoregio Belvedere — the meaning of Belvedere is “beautify sight” and that is exactly what you will experience from this terrace in the town of Bagnoregio where you get an excellent view of the village before crossing the bridge.

* Palaces — there are several palaces and houses of nobility within the village including Palazzo Alemanni, the former home of the prosperous Alemanni family and now the Geological and Landslides Museum. The Bishop’s Palace, Palazzo Vescovile, was a mill in the 16th century and also where St. Bonaventure was born. The Palazzo Colesanti, the home of the Calesanti family during the Renaissance, has numerous windows set in a gorgeous brick facade.

* Church of San Donato — situated in the heart of the village, this 5th-century church is complete with a bell tower and has much history on display. An earthquake in 1695 caused quite a bit of damage, and it was at this point that the majority of the population relocated to Bagnoregio.

* Porta Santa Maria — originally there were five (5) city gates but this is the only one remaining. There are many carvings in the walls of the gate which in prior years was called Porta Cava.

* Grotta di San Bonaventura — this ancient grotto is an Etruscan tomb that was a chapel in the Middle Ages. As legend has it, Giovanni Fidanza, or St. Bonaventure, was healed when a child by St. Francis of Assi, and became a saint in 1482.

Why Visit Civita di Bagnoregio ItalyCivita di Bagnoregio Italy

This is the place to be for those interested in gorgeous scenery and in history. It is part of the historical Tuscia region and is an ideal place for a day trip from Rome.

Even though it is currently known as the “Dying Village”, I do suggest visiting during the week as the weekends are slammed with tourists. An hour-and-a-half walking tour is available as well.

Experience the subtle charms of this village as you wander through this romantic and old-world part of Italy. Its main street has a few restaurants, some quaint shops, and two (2) bars.

During the summer, after the day-trip visitors have left, the local residents spend the evening hours outside mingling and gossiping. This is where you will get an inside glimpse into the culture and history of this rural town.

There are flowers everywhere as you wander through the village.

Accommodations within the town vary from modest accommodations, bed and breakfasts, to luxury apartments. The families here open their doors and cater to visitors.

This is a most unusual but interesting part of the world to visit. Consider putting it on your destination list.

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Happy travels,

Joseph William

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12 thoughts on “Civita di Bagnoregio Italy — A Fairytale Town”

  1. Such a fascinating village to learn about! It sounds like an amazing place to visit that I need to add to my travel wish list! I hope there are plans in place to keep the structures from completely crumbling as the foundation continues to deteriorate. It sounds like such a step back in time for visitors. The video you shared was great. I felt like I got to experience a bit of this beautiful village already!

    • Thanks for your thoughts and comments, Laura. This is definitely an interestingplace to check. out. All the best.

  2. This town sounds absolutely magical! I was talking to my husband about the city and it’s rich history. It would be amazing to walk around and see the beautiful architecture as well as talk with the local residents (and pet all the cats!). I am putting this location on my travel wish list.

  3. Hi Joseph,

    This looks like a beautiful town to visit.

    I visited Italy about 20 years ago for a wedding in Rome, and we visited the villages that are part of that area. They were all beautiful too.

    I have been thinking about going back to Italy in the future and maybe I can add this town to the list of places I visit.

    Thank you for sharing and keep up the great work.

    All the best,


  4. I was looking into some vacation plans towards the end of the year (November more or less) and this looks like a really great location to visit after the summer rush! Although I know that some places are closing down during the winter, especially when they’re a bit smaller, do you have any idea if that’s also the case for this little village? And what would you advice on getting there? Is there a local bus going near, or is it better to rent a car?
    Thanks again for this article and your very welcome review on this Italian gem!

    • Thanks for your comments and thoughts, Virendra. Visiting Civita di Bagnoregio takes usually between 2 and 4 hours, not counting lunch or dinner time. The only way to get there is crossing the bridge that links the village to Bagnoregio. If you come by car, you will have to pay a fee to park it in the valley below the bridge. A bus will take you to the beginning of the bridge. You can as well get there by foot, but the road is uphill and quite steep. We have warned you. To cross the bridge and get to the village, there is a €5 fee. To my knowledge it does not close in the winter but best to check with local hotels.


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