Driving directly from Rome to Florence will take about three hours. Taking a small detour via the enchanting village of Civita di Bagnoregio, however, will transform your journey into an unforgettable road trip. Located just south of Orvieto, this special medieval settlement lies about halfway between Rome and Florence.
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Setting off from the Eternal City
This is a journey that takes you out of the city, allowing you to explore the true beauty of the Italian countryside.
After you’ve picked up your car in Rome, set off on your trip after the morning rush hour traffic has subsided. There’s no need to hurry and this delayed departure will allow you to take in a relaxed cappuccino, preparing you for the day ahead.
The A1 is a well-maintained toll road, providing a stress-free drive out of the Eternal City. As Rome’s suburbs give way to rolling hills and small farms, keep an eye out for the turn off to Orvieto. Exiting the highway, the fast-paced nature of the journey turns into a quieter cruise through country lanes lined with trees.
Follow signs to Civita rather than Bagnoregio, as signs to the latter will direct you to the modern town of the same name.
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Approaching Civita di Bagnoregio
No vehicles are allowed inside Civita di Bagnoregio, but there is a handy car park located nearby.
It’s immediately clear why vehicles are a no-go here as you catch a first glimpse of the village walls. It is a mesmerising destination precariously perched, almost impossibly, atop a steep hill and surrounded by cliffs on every side.
The area was first settled by the Etruscans more than 2,500 years ago. Steeped in history, the village itself provided a strong layer of protection against potential invaders – with its unrivalled views of the valley below.
The tufa rock on which Civita di Bagnoregio sits also serves a dual purpose as a construction material, and the village is beautifully uniform in its aesthetic as a result. It blends seamlessly into its natural surroundings and appears to grow organically out of the mountaintop.
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The fairytale-like village is now only accessible via a striking half a kilometre long pedestrian bridge. There is a small €3 charge at the entrance gate with the funds being used to preserve and repair this wonderful village.
Civita di Bagnoregio is one of Italy’s most beloved ‘ghost towns.’ Many of the homes have long since been abandoned due to the threat of erosion as the cliffs underneath begin to collapse. This hasn’t prevented ten fulltime residents remaining, a number which grows closer to 100 during the summer months.
This tiny population isn’t a surprise. The village has been largely deserted since an earthquake shook its foundations in the 17th century. Yet, the lack of people has actually served to preserve the historic buildings while giving Bagnoregio a reputation as il paese che muore – the dying town.
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Despite its gloomy nickname, this vibrant village has a distinct charm. Compact and charismatic, you can stretch your legs with a stroll through the village before settling down for lunch. After walking through the picturesque arch of Porta Santa Maria, continue on to Piazza San Donato – the main square. Step inside the Cathedral of San Donato, a church that dates back to the Middle Ages but was built on the site of a much older Roman temple. These are the village must-sees, but the most popular attraction inside Civita di Bagnoregio will always be the views out across the Tiber valley.
Continuing on to Florence
As you leave the vistas of the village behind you, save some time to explore Bagnoregio town and the immediate surrounding area of rural Lazio.
Close to the Umbrian border, this area of central Italy is a food-lover’s dream. You will find restaurants serving hearty dishes of wild boar (cinghiale) ragù, as well as pasta topped with truffles and porcini mushrooms. Sample the local foods seated at an outdoor table at the exquisite L’Osteria al Forno di Agnese.
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After an espresso to finish the meal, you’re ready to hit the road again – approaching Florence in time for sunset over the Duomo. On a good day, it’ll take just over two hours to get there via a largely straight section of the A1. Arriving in Florence will be just as magical as your day exploring the ancient village of Civita di Bagnoregio. Its Renaissance architecture and Tuscan cuisine will keep you enchanted until it’s time to get back in the car and set off on your next adventure.