|Civita di Bagnoregio, the Dying Town|
|the bridge that connects Civita to Bagnoregio|
Viterbo is in central Italy in the region of Lazio where Rome is also located. Our base, Palazzo Catalani in Soriano Nel Cimino, is also in this region. Thus, it was easy for us (Bill and me and Suzanne, Bill's daughter, and her family) to visit three small towns and its capital from this base. The visits gave us a quick flavor of Italy, including the deep influence of the Roman Catholic Church on Italian life throughout history.
|the church in Civita|
Civita di Bagnoregio is a town in the province of Viterbo, about 75 miles north of Rome, noted for its striking position atop a plateau of volcanic tuff, overlooking the Tiber river valley. It is in constant danger of destruction as its edges fall off, leaving buildings to crumble. Founded by Etruscans more than 2,500 years ago, its population has dwindled to just 12 during winter and about 100 during summer. At the end of the 17th century, a major earthquake precipitated its decline and in the 19th century, it started to turn into an island as the pace of erosion quickened.
Bagnoregio used to be a part of Civita until the bishop, and the municipal government had to move there after the earthquake. Today Bagnoregio continues to be a prosperous town while Civita has become known as “the town that is dying." But Civita has experienced a revival of tourism recently. The city is admired for its architecture, spanning several hundred years, left unaltered due to its relative isolation. It was placed on the World Monuments Fund's 2006 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites due to erosion and unregulated tourism.
The second town we visited in Viterbo is Montefiascone, 59 miles north of Rome. It lies around Lake Bolsena which began following the formation of a caldera in the Vulsini volcanic complex, the most recent activity occurring in 104 BC. The complex has been dormant since then. In addition to the historic sites of all periods, Lake Bolsena is surrounded by numerous tourist establishments, largely for camping, agrotourism and bed and breakfasts.
|the large dome of the Montefiascone Cathedral|
|Philippina in the Room of World Maps|
Villa Farnese is situated directly above the town of Caprarola and dominates the countryside. As a matter of fact, the whole town was rearranged so that the main road leads directly to it. It is a massive Renaissance construction, pentagonal in shape, built in reddish Goldstone with buttresses supporting the upper floors. Large, beautiful murals fill all the rooms. The one I liked the most was the Room of World Maps where a map of Asia depicts the Philippines as Philipina!
Viterbo is the capital of the province of Viterbo, approximately 50 miles north of Rome, surrounded by the Monti Cimini and Monti Volsini. The historic center of the city is surrounded by medieval walls, still intact, built during the 11th and 12th centuries. Entrance to the walled center of the city is through ancient gates. When the popes switched to the Frankish support, Viterbo became part of the Papal States and the Papal Seat, but this status was highly contested in the following centuries.
|what remains of the Papal Palace in Viterbo|
|cathedral beside the Papal Palace|
This story shows how much the history of the Roman Catholic Church is closely intertwined with the history of Italy. From our base in Viterbo, we got a quick flavor of Italy: a stunning dying town, the largest dome in a small town in Italy, a powerful Italian family’s Villa, and a former Papal Seat. And it was all in a week.