Civita di Bagnoreggio
Wednesday 29 August
The town looks exactly the way it does in photos, perched above steep cliffs. The bridge is not as long as I thought it would be, nor as steep as suggested. Jim (our multi talented personal chef and bon vivant host for tonights dinner) meets us with a motorised hand cart at the beginning of the bridge and takes our luggage. I follow behind marvelling at the glorious view of mini canyons on one side, and another small hill town some distance away on the other. Civita is bathed in sunlight and it is hot.
I approach the arch leading into the town. The facade is Romanesque, but the archway itself was carved by the Etruscans 2500 years ago!
A few metres on we are in the duomo piazza and looking at the archbishops’ apartment. It is our room for the night! The room is barely unchanged from the original other than its walls and ceiling (wooden poles) have been painted white and there is a small bathroom – with an amazing smooth grey stone sink on two levels. The water falls from a spout into a wide shallow bowl then is channelled into a smaller bowl with a drain hole. It looks like it has been found in that shape.
We explore Civita. It is very small with homes that are collapsing over the constantly eroding edge. Looking at old photos, it seems that many have gone. If part of a home collapses people simply use the rooms that remain! Walls and archways lead to nowhere. A palace has collapsed and only one wall remains The hill is tufo stone which is very soft and eroding because of the weather. The town may not be there for much longer unless engineers and geologists can stabilise it.
The duomo was built in the 1100s and is a mix of the very old and the garish altars that were added later. The bells are magnificent. Not because of the way they look but because they are so erratic. Sometimes the bells will toll twenty or more times, sometimes once or twice!
We walk down the main street, a narrow dirt path passing backyards; there is no privacy here! But there are only eight permanent residents, and one, our chef, is about to move to a house at the bottom of the hill. There are many mnany cats though. At the end of the street we continue down the path, past an Etruscan cave which had been used by residents to press olives. The huge wheel remains. Further on the path descends past more Etruscan caves, now used to store hay and animals. The view over the valley is fabulous … The mini canyons, vineyards, pasture …
We walk as far as The del carcere, a chapel dedicated to the incarcerated, originally an Etruscan tomb. If we were to continue we would eventually come to a long straight tunnel that runs the length of Civita and through which light at the other end can be seen!
Our room has a terrace overlooking the piazza. We sit here waiting til it is time for dinner, then wander down to the old mill where we are to have dinner. Outside, looking over the valley, we chat with Jim. He is about our age, from Ohio but has lived in Italy for about ten years learning a new craft every year. One year he worked with an Italian “Mamma” learning to cook.
Dinner is amazing. I swear I eat the best pasta I have ever eaten – with mushrooms cooked simply in white wine, veal with presxuttio and sage …
Its warm as we walk back to our room under a clear moon. A few people are leaving after having dinner here. Some are carrying sleeping children.
Thursday 30 August
We wake up to the 7 O’clock bells! Wonderful!
While we wait for breakfast at Jim’s place we sit on the terrace outside our room.
Jim bottled some “live” wine for Peter … Poured straight from a barrel of wine made by a local resident. I bought olive oil face creams. The area makes lots of olive oil products.
I slowly walk back down bridge, stopping to look back at this unique and wonderful place. Magnificent