Civita di Bagnoregio: The perfect complement to a Rome visit

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Perched precariously on a small plateau an hour’s drive north of Rome, Civita offers a peaceful counter point to the frenzy of a visit to Rome. Traffic-free Civita can only be reached by a pedestrian bridge from the town of Bagnoregio. Once a thriving medieval town, Civita has been reduced by time and erosion to a mere remnant of its past. With a peaceful town square, a small church, a couple restaurants and great views in all directions, it is the perfect place for a leisurely afternoon with a glass of wine and a plate of freshly made bruschetta. A tiny museum displays a vintage olive press but the main sight in Civita is the town itself.

Lying between Rome and Florence, this area is often overlooked by visitors to central Italy but there are plenty of reasons to spend a few nights here. Hotel Romantica Pucci http://www.hotelromanticapucci.it in Bagnoregio makes a great base for exploring the region. Orvieto, with its cliff-side setting and a magnificent cathedral that features an ornate façade and amazing frescos by Lucca Signorelli, is only a 30-minute drive to the north. It is said that Michelangelo went to Orvieto to study the frescos before painting the Sistine ceiling. Hilltop towns such as Montefiascone, Sorano and Pitigliano, http://www.pitigliano-toscana.com, are all worth a visit. Each offers a thriving small town in a spectacular setting. Visitors interested in history will appreciate the area to the southwest of Bagnoregio. The Etruscan civilization flourished in the area as the Roman civilization was growing to the south. Eventually the Romans conquered the Etruscans but artifacts of the Etruscans remain, particularly in the tombs such as those found at Tarquinia http://goitaly.about.com/od/northernlazio/p/tarquina.htm.

Southeast of Bagnoregio is the small town of Bomarzo. The town itself is rather plain but it is the gateway to the Parco dei Mostri (Park of the Monsters) http://www.bomarzo.net/index_en.html. This estate features a series of massive sixteenth century sculptures, some carved out of the natural bedrock, situated in a park-like setting. The sculptures are impressive and the park is a great spot for a picnic.

A car is necessary to get the best out a visit to the area. Bagnoregio is an easy drive from the Rome airport. Another option is to take one of the frequent regional trains from Rome to Orvieto and rent a car there. Either way, a few days spent in the area around Bagnoregio make an excellent beginning or end to a Roman holiday.