The borgo of Civita has its origin in Etruscan times. The town is perched on a tufaceous spur above the Valle dei Calanchi, and it can be exclusively reached through a footbridge. The continuous erosion that affects the whole valley is jeopardizing Civita’s future, which is why it is known as the Dying Town. ( cf. Bonaventura Tecchi, a local germanist and literary man).
In 1695 an earthquake almost completely destroyed the public and private buildings of the town and caused the separation of Civita into two contrade, Mercatello and Bagnoregio, divided by a spectacular crag. Entire districts collapsed in the valley below, including the Contrada Carcere, of which only a small cave — a former Etruscan tomb later used by shepherds as a dwelling and a stable — has remained.
Through a bridge it is possible to reach the Porta Santa Maria, a gate carved out of tufa stone that represents the ancient entrance to Civita. The borgo preserves its Renaissance appearance and features plenty of small traditional shops, bars, restaurants, and characteristic alleys that lead visitors to breathtaking views.
Downtown, Piazza San Donato hosts the principal church that had been the former cathedral of Civita until 1699, when it was replaced by a new see in Bagnoregio. The Romanesque church dates back to the 5th century, but there are clues of pagan and Christian temples in both the bell tower and the interior of the church.
The journey through the Dying Town includes stops at:
· The bridge;
· Porta Santa Maria;
· Museo Geologico e delle Frane;
· Church of San Donatus;
· House of St. Bonaventure;
· Cappella Madonna del Carcere.