Civita di Bagnoregio is one of central Italy’s best kept secrets. It’s a quaint and isolated hill town with honey-colored store fronts, winding streets and a constant, almost tangible silence. Here’s how you can get swept away by the mysterious town of Civita di Bagnoregio.
Do you ever show up to a destination and fall in love so hard, so fast, that your heart starts racing and, while you’re bouncing off the walls with giddiness for what’s to come, you’re already dreading the second you have to say good bye?
That was Civita di Bagnoregio for me. It was my fleeting, fireworks-filled Italian love affair, and I’m already planning my journey back to rekindle the flame.
Described as the “Jewel on the Hill” by Rick Steves, Civita di Bagnoregio is a quaint, archaic Italian hill town that appears to literally be one with the hill. The town is isolated on every side, and a footbridge is the only way in or out.
It’s noticeably quiet, as you’d expect any hard-to-reach, pedestrian-only town to be, but that’s why you go there. Not to gawk at tall skyscrapers, or read your way through a museum.
You visit Civita di Bagnoregio to travel back in time as you sip your morning espresso and soak in the city’s charming, authentic way of life.
Civita di Bagnoregio Must-Dos
Calling all Indiana Jones fans: Civita di Bagnoregio is for you! When we first arrived to Bagnoregio and saw the enchanting, seemingly endless bridge that leads into a time-passed, isolated hill town, I had two thoughts:
“I’m in love, I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it!”
Then, once I remembered to put on my “play-hard-to-get hat,” I shifted gears: “Wait a second, I’ve seen something like this before…”
And I was right. I had seen something like the Civita bridge before, thanks to good old Indiana Jones. The bridge over to Civita shares commonalities with the bridge from “Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom” — they both lead to a nearly abandoned town on a cliff, and they’re both longer than they appear.
Now, our bridge wasn’t missing steps. It had a sturdy, and I’m sure safety tested, railing instead of janky rope. And I guess we didn’t technically have bad guys coming after us. OK, OK, and we were carrying cameras instead of three-foot long machetes.
But still, guys, hear me out. That hike up to Civita felt like I time traveled back to the Temple of Doom, and even though my focus was on photography — not fighting — I left that day feeling a little bit more connected to Indiana. And that’s something everyone should experience once in their lifetime, am I right?
There’s something about dining in an old cave in an ancient city that’s incredibly compelling. For one, it’s the quickest way to travel back in time and see the city from an entirely different point of view (like cavemen!). And, in remote places like Civita, it’s an experience few tourists find themselves in, meaning you not only get a cave, but sometimes even a private cave that includes ongoing conversation with a cheery, knowledgeable waiter.
Alma Civita, our “cave restaurant” in Civita, was top-notch. We sat below ground in the lowest part of the cave, which had a slight air of mystery to it — but that didn’t stop us from devouring house wine and homemade tomato balsamic bruschetta. It was almost like a “we shouldn’t be here but we are and it’s delicious!” atmosphere.
The staff at Alma Civita completed our already perfect cave-dining experience. They’re beyond welcoming as they guide you through every dish and wine, and even offer tips for what to see while you’re in town. The only thing they don’t do is tell you to stop eating. And seeing as I was forced to carry a food baby with me the rest of the day, I probably could’ve used a little “Haven’t you had enough?”.
Stroll through the Streets
There’s really not much in the way of “sightseeing” once you’re in Civita – Civita di Bagnoregio itself is the sight – so enjoy roaming through the small side streets and gazing across the scenic views. The city is small so it’s easily navigable in one hour, so take your time to soak up this city and if time does allow, grab an espresso at one of the outdoor cafes to watch other people (both locals and tourists) enjoying this gem.
Know before you go
The roads to get to Civita offer stunning views of the Fiume Paglia river, but, if unprepared, those views can come with a hefty price tag: car sickness.
The drive out to Civita had by far the most twists and turns of any Italian countryside roads, which were especially painful after a night spent chatting over Chianti.
Lots of Chianti.
My advice? Go easy the night before and take Dramamine or even ginger capsules the morning before your drive. Civita is too beautiful to experience when you’re feeling subpar.