The first time I saw Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy, I’m pretty sure I giggled.
I’d seen pictures, heard about it from my mom, and watched Rick Steves walk through the tiny town in one of his episodes — but nothing can really capture what it’s like to be there in person.
Just under two hours by car from Rome, Civita is isolated enough to make it a little less crowded. Tourism has increased over the past several years, but most people come for a day trip. The footbridge that leads to the town stretches across a broad valley and is the only way in or out of the village.
Our host and his wife are two of the thirteen full-time residents in Civita. He said they typically walk to get their groceries in Bagnoregio (the big town across the bridge — weighing in at a whopping 3,600 people). They moved to Civita from Rome for a slower lifestyle — and they certainly found it.
My Favorite Time of Day
Morning is my favorite time of day in any town, but especially in Civita. It’s one place where I can wander and truly be the only person up in an entire town — and I love it.
Without cars, it’s the kind of quiet you can usually only get in nature. But in Civita, you’re still surrounded by buildings and stone. I imagine it must be the closest thing to experiencing a time without vehicles, high-speed internet, or constant distractions.
One morning, as I was walking through town around dawn, I heard the shuffling sounds of scooter tires on gravel — but no engine. I was nearing the pathway to the footbridge when a young man with a helmet and backpack appeared behind me, walking his scooter down the hill.
After rounding the final sharp curve, he hopped on and the only sound I could hear was the creak of the seat as he got settled and quietly rode down the footbridge with the scooter in neutral. Once he neared the end, he finally started the engine to make it up the hill on the other side and continued on his way as quietly as possible. I smiled at the respect he showed the town and appreciated the chance to witness a scene that typically goes unnoticed.
Around 6-7 am, you might start to hear the occasional engine from the scooters of workers who travel into the town to haul away trash or deliver goods to restaurants. But there aren’t many. Most people come and go on foot.
Things to Do In Civita di Bagnoregio
I hesitate even using that headline because, for me, the point of visiting Civita is to simply ENJOY rather than DO. But there are a few things that are certainly worth checking out!
We all enjoyed a visit to Antica Civitas for a self-guided tour of a few ancient caves. The man accepting the very low fee at the door was the same man who sat there nearly four years ago when Scott and I first visited the town.
We also went to the Civita di Bagnoregio Geological Museum, which explains in detail the way the earth has sloughed away and created the unusual cliffside sight. The museum also has a miniature of the town, which was another highlight of our trip for Max after seeing others in Alberobello and Matera.
And on this trip, our host told us about a hidden tunnel that runs underneath the town and opens up to the forest below. This juicy nugget isn’t easy to find, so get in touch with me if you’re planning a trip to Civita and I’ll gladly tell you how to get there!
There aren’t many restaurants in Civita, but they’re all good so you basically can’t go wrong. We were pretty tickled to step directly outside our door (literally about five steps) to reach our dinner destination of Alma Civita, where we ate Scott’s favorite meal of the trip so far. We also love the panini from L’Arco del Gusto, a tiny shop that is the perfect representation of Italian charm.
The Cats of Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy
In the evening, the cats of Civita di Bagnoregio come out. And though they’re technically strays, they’re all very well fed. One restaurant employee saw the kids following a cute gray and white cat, so he came over and handed them each a little bit of prosciutto. That cat was affectionately named Dot and became very good friends with the kids after they gave her their tasty treat.
Both kids were smitten with the cats and began naming each one we found. I kept a list of the names on my phone, and the total ended up being fourteen. Just enough to officially be more than the number of town residents!
On our last evening in Civita, we walked across the bridge to get a view of the town at night. Just when the kids were about to melt down from the long (and late!) walk, we happened upon a mama cat with her five kittens! That made it all worth it for Annie.
The magic of Civita di Bagnoregio is in the details that can’t be captured in photos, words, or video. It’s a feeling that has to be experienced — so pack up your bag and go!
This is part of a series about our family travels this summer through Italy — and beyond. You can start from the beginning of the blog series here or follow along on Instagram.