Calling yourself the “City of Dying” may not sound like the best way to attract visitors, but Civita has learned to make a living from the dead.
And it has held definitive death for so long Italy has nominated it and the surrounding area consisting of steep cliffs and valleys known as “barren land” to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Centuries ago, the city was much larger and connected by road to other settlements. Yet landslides, earthquakes, fissures and erosion have reduced their size dramatically and allowed them to stand on their own spectacularly at the top of the spurs.
As the winter clouds thin, Civita looks like a castle floating in the air. On a clear day, the rock on which he rests looks like a piece of cake in layers.
Clay from the inland seas one million years ago supported a layer of solidified ash and magma from subsequent volcanic eruptions.
Civita’s past, present and future is a geologist’s dream, with the massive landslide that occurred in 1114 still being studied today.
“Over the past three millennia, regressive erosion has practically reduced Civita to a nucleus, leaving the square and some of the roads around it,” said Luca Costantini, 49, a geologist who is part of a project to monitor and slow erosion.
In underground caves cut from soft volcanic rock known as tufo, steel rods hold the walls together.
“Our motto is ‘resilience’ because Civita was founded by the Etruscans, going through the Roman era and the entire medieval period to the present day,” said Luca Profili, 32, mayor of Bagnoregio, of which Civita is a part.
“This place is very fragile,” he said.
The fragility is measured in part with an “extensometer,” an external telescopic rod that detects movement.
The surviving Civita dates mostly to the Medieval period and measures about 152 by 91 meters (500 by 300 feet), less than two football fields. The main square is about the size of a basketball court.
Once scattered over a hill about three times its current size, over the centuries the entire neighborhood collapsed due to landslides. The day is accessible via long, steep trails for hikers or golf carts.
The number of permanent residents fluctuates between 10 and 14 depending on the season. Prior to the pandemic, Civita became an attraction for tourists traveling between Rome and Florence.
Street signs direct visitors to “Civita – The Dying Town”.
Stefano Lucarini, 29, bought a restaurant in Civita in March 2020, just days before the first Covid lockdown.
“The timing isn’t right,” he joked. But he is optimistic that after the pandemic, the city can bounce back.
“The environmental risks are worrying (but) we hope that over the years everyone can enjoy this city,” he said.
The mayor’s spokesman, Roberto Pomi, said Italy submitted a proposal for a heritage site in January and expected UNESCO to decide by June next year.
(Reporting by Emily Roe and Cristiano Corvino in Civita, written by Philip Pullella, editing by Giles Elgood)
This story has been published from wire agent bait without modification to the text.