Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Dying Town

The Umbrian hill town of Civita de Bagnoregio

Civita de Bagnoregio was a thriving Etruscan community about 2500 years ago.  Situated on the top of a tufa stone bluff over looking the Tiber River Valley, it must have seemed to the Etruscans like the perfect perch from which to watch the world go by.  Now it's called "the dying town" because its population has dwindled to somewhere between 12 and 100 residents, depending upon the time of year.  

The tufa stone (compressed volcanic ash) easily erodes.
So what happened? An earthquake in the 17th century frightened residents so badly that all but a few abandoned the little town. Those that stayed watched as relentless erosion slowly ate away at the land bridge that provided their connection to the rest of the world.  The walls and buildings steadily crumbled away and only the hardiest stayed.    

It's an irony that the isolation which kept Civita from changing much over the centuries is today what draws the tourists. It is the tourists, and the dollars they bring in, which may be what ultimately saves the dying town. 

Before the new walking bridge was constructed the only way into town
was by traversing a narrow ridge top trail.

A steep and dramatic entrance to the town.

The main piazza of Civita hasn't changed much over the centuries.

On the piazza is the heart of all Italian towns...the church.

The church's outside facade may be simple but they made up for it with their alter.

The town's few residents have made it very charming.

It may be known as the dying town but...

signs of life are abundant.

Areas dug in beneath the homes were probably
once used to house animals,

Civita gives new meaning to the saying "living life on the edge".

Some of the structural support under the buildings pictured directly above.

The harsh landscape of the Tiber River Valley surrounding Civita.

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