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Europe: Italy

Central Italy: Civita Di Bognoregio

by Joseph Mack

April 2014 was upon us. We had been planning this trip to Italy for a couple of years now. We had to cancel the first date and it wasn’t until right before we embarked on our journey that we realized that we had booked during the Easter Holy Days. Let the adventure begin.

The trip originally was going to be Rome, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast. After careful consideration, I decided Rome wasn’t really going to be what we wanted to do. But going from Tuscany to the Amalfi Coast, specifically Positano, was a very long drive. We always drive on our trips, no trains, no buses.  I remembered watching a Rick Steve’s show about a town called Civita Di Bognoregio. I found it on Google maps, and decided it would be a good place to stop on the way from Tuscany to Positano. As it turns out, this one night was the night before Easter. So we would wake up Easter Morning in this wondrous town.

Tuscany was all I had hoped it would be, staying in San Donato in Poggio at the Palazzo Malaspina. We saw Voltera, San Gimignano, Pisa, Lucca, and Florence. Our base at the Palazzo was a short drive to all these destinations. On Good Friday we walked in a procession in Florence, it was very moving. That night arriving at our B&B, still being Good Friday, we ran right into the town procession for Good Friday. We witnessed something we will never forget, watching Jesus being carried through the streets by candle light. We were moved to tears. Next day, off to Civita Di Bognoregio.

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GPS is a great invention, but it sometimes doesn’t work 100%. We got to the “new” Bognoreggio and had to ask “where is Civita di Bognoregio”. When we finally arrived at our destination, I knew what it was supposed to look like, but that didn’t prepare me for the reality of what was to come.

The only way into this town is by going up this quarter mile ramp with a very steep incline, no cars, no motorcycles, nothing but you and your luggage. The weather wasn’t great, but it wasn’t raining. That is until we were at the midpoint of the ramp. We were towing one small suitcase, enough for one night in town. The heavens opened up. RAIN RAIN RAIN, WIND WIND WIND. The wind must have gusted to 40 mph. Our umbrella turned inside out I don’t know how many times. My wife was holding the umbrella and I told her give it to me, you take the bag. So now as if the ramp and its incline wasn’t bad enough for these two 63 year old travellers, now they were soaked to the bone too.

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Getting to the top, we took a rest. Water coming down the walkways like little streams. I find the office for our hotel,  The Locanda Della Buona Ventura. The office was just part of a gift shop not connected to our building. But the girl was expecting us, and escorted us through the puddles, all carrying umbrellas, since it was still raining. We got to the room and took a breath for the first  time in an hour.

Once the residence of an Archbishop who left his coat- of – arms for us to admire right above the main door. This beautiful building dates back to the 1200’s and is located in the very heart of Civita di Bagnoregio, a unique treasure of history and nature. It is a breathtaking, genuinely medieval, traffic-free town roosting atop a hill at a center of an impressive canyon, that has been under the effects of erosion for centuries, so earning Civita its famous nickname – the “Dying Town”.

Our room was on the main (only) piazza in town. Opposite our bedroom window was a view of the Church. My wife decided she needed a rest. Even though it was raining, I set out to shot some photos. How could I resist. Off I went with my camera in one hand and an umbrella in the other.

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I got back to our room, my wife was feeling hungry so we crossed the piazza to the closest and one of the only restaurants in town. The Trattoria “Osteria al forno di Agnese”. They weren’t open yet for business, they were still setting up and the wait staff was preparing to eat their evening meal. They allowed us to sit and wait, not wanting to go out in the rain again. Inside were photos of Rick Steve in this restaurant and in Civita De Bognoregio.

Back to our room. We were tired from the long day of travel, the long walk up the ramp, and fighting the wind and rain. We finally got to sleep. We didn’t even care what time it was, it wasn’t late. Didn’t matter any way. No TV, no Internet, just us in the room. Next thing we know, the church bells are ringing, and it’s 6:00 AM on Easter Morning. And the Church bells are signaling that Christ has risen. I looked out the window, and …low and behold…THE SUN WAS OUT. I told Jaci, my wife, let me go find us some coffee. I found a café just getting ready to open, but in Italian tells me he is NOT open yet. I convince him, all I want is two cups of coffee. He tells me he is a restaurant not a coffee shop, in my best Italian I plead for just two cups of coffee, and he obliges me. THANK GOD. I take the coffee back to the room and give it to Jaci and tell her, I HAVE to go take some photos. Sun shining Easter Morning. Not a sole on the streets, not that many people even live in this town, maybe 20 if that. I have this magical town on top of a mountain all to myself. I go off shooting my second round of photos. I take all the shots I can and go back to the room to tell Jaci how beautiful the place is. We then made our way back to the entrance to town, stopping in a shop or two on the way to buy some gifts. And a coffee mug. I always buy a coffee mug from places we stay.

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Going down the ramp was so much easier than going up. The sun is shining. There is some fog in the valley, IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL. I take even more photos and turn and look at the beautiful town once again. We will never ever forget this place. We saw Tuscany, after we left Civita di Bognoregio we went to Pompeii and then the Amalfi Coast staying at Positano, renewing our wedding vows in the Chiese di Positano, Church of Positano. We also saw Capri, Ravello, and Amalfi. But nothing compares or ever will with Civita Di Bognoregio.

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