There is something oddly attractive about a place slated to disappear, and at first glance, Civita di Bagnoregio is just that: a charming medieval town in central Italy that, thanks to its geology, has been slowly crumbling for thousands of years.
The Etruscans chose the site for its high ground in the 6th century B.C., but much of that ground has since fallen away. Civita di Bagnoregio is built on what’s known as “tuff,” volcanic rock over a bed of soft clay and sand. And in a region prone to earthquakes — including a massive one in 1695 that devastated the town — that combination, plus a healthy amount of rain, have accelerated the landslides that have now robbed Civita di Bagnoregio of 20 percent of its terrain since 1705. Today there are only around seven year-round residents and many of its buildings have been lost.
But in 2015 that’s an idea drawing tourists; since 2010, the number of people making the difficult hike up the footbridge has risen from 40,000 a year to 500,000. New restaurants, tourist shops and bed and breakfasts have opened, and locals have a reason to stick around, or in many cases, to return, giving them hope that the wonder and beauty of their town will be enough to sustain it many years into the future.
Coupled with some massive geo-engineering efforts, that may be true. See below for a collection of photos from what locals call “il paese che muore,” or “the dying town.”