Saturday, January 6, 2007

Civita di Bagnoregio

Last summer my husband and I were invited by a life-long friend to stay in a chateau he had rented in Umbria. Although we’ve visited Italy at least ten times in the last six years, we’d never spent any time in the Umbrian countryside and decided we couldn’t miss the opportunity and happily agreed.

The chateau is located near the ancient city of Orvieto, which is about 90 minutes drive from Rome airport. Like many of the cities in this area, it is built on the top of a flat-topped hill and has its origins in the Etruscan era, and so has been occupied and maintained as a fortress city for over 2500 years.

Orvieto is a great location for exploring the whole of Umbria and even southern Tuscany. We spent one day driving on country roads from Orvieto to Sienna—a drive that takes you through Montalcino, which is one of the most beautiful wine making areas of Italy, famous for the full-bodied red wine called Brunello di Montalcino.

Lago de Bolsena is also within easy reach of Orvieto and offers swimming, boating, and shopping opportunities in lovely old towns such as Bolsena.

The photograph above is of a unique little city called Civita di Bagnoregio, which is only about 20 minutes drive from Orvieto. Civita can be reached only by the footpath shown in the photo. There are no roads into or out of the city, although we did see scooters using the footpath to take supplies into the town!

Like Orvieto, the city was founded by the Etruscans about 2500 years ago because of its position along trade routes. It thrived until 1695 when an earthquake damaged buildings and roads and forced many to abandon the city for the surrounding fertile valleys.