Civita Di Bagnoregio is a “bluff-town” in italy that stretches up from the ochre rock as if it grew there on its own. It rises so high above the valley that one must cross a steep bridge on foot to even enter the town. And once there, you might believe you have crossed a bridge into former centuries, rising into a tiny series of cobbled streets and stone buildings all fit together like stacked boxes. Everything is stone…and everything is quiet.
The only noticeable ruckus when we arrived was a crowd of cats gathering curiously at the old wooden door of our friend’s house.
After an evening of wondering what there might be to do in a quiet bluff-town whose few shops and restaurants seem to close at a random hour before dinner, we asked the owner of the neighboring bookshop where we might find internet. She thought for a moment than motioned for us to follow her.
She led us down the short length of the town’s primary street, than ducked off to the side of a building and through a little wooden gate. The buildings were clustered around us and gave the feeling of a maze. Through the gate there was a courtyard and past the courtyard, a friendly old gentlemen making soup in his kitchen.
The keeper of the internet? I smiled at how unhesitant the bookkeeper had been to take us into this man’s house, and how our entry seemed to phase this man not a bit.
His house was the same small, stone structure we’d seen in the rest of the town and the rustic wooden furniture made me feel at home. The walls were adorned with pieces of artwork ,one of which I thought I recognized as depicting street behind the Vatican in Rome.
As soon as the old man introduced himself, I unraveled a few curious questions and learned more about the little Civita than I would have known without our accidental intrusion into this man’s house.
Civita di Bagnoregio has roughly 5 or 6 year-round residents Tony guessed, himself included, though more part-time residents or employees who keep a house outside of the bluff town. One of the primary families has resided in the Civita for some 500 years, now providing arguably the best restaurant on the bluff.
Some towns build their stories and histories around their coal mines like the towns in West Virginia, or around a culture of farming as is true for the towns I knew in Ohio…but for the Civita the central player in its stories and histories seems to be its bridge.
There were years in which there was no completed bridge, but instead a combination of bridge, stairs, and muddy terrain one had to cross on foot below the Civita. Tony says that there used to be women at the bottom of the path who would hand you a pair of boots to wear across the mud.
As we talked with Tony it became clear that he and his late wife had played a huge role in the Civita’s story. They created the Civita Institute and had called to light the unique beauty of the hill-town architecture. In addition, they helped to bring students to the beautiful town to study their own passions and projects.
Of course, I had to do my own independent research and came to realize that they were also contributors in much of the restoration that has happened in the Civita.
For that, I am grateful. It is indeed an incredible little town.