Bagnoregio is a small town in the northern part of the province of Viterbo. It is located slightly south of Orvieto and slightly to the east of the Lake of Bolsena. The main city is not that interesting, but the ancient suburb Civita di Bagnoregio is one of the area’s most famous tourist destinations.
To reach Bagnoregio by car you will have to travel the SP6. From Viterbo you take first the SP12 in northern direction and from Orivieto you take first the SP5 in southern direction.
The area around Bagnoregio used to be called Novem Pagi, which is Latin for “nine villages”. The origin of the name Bagnoregio itself is probably also to be found in antiquity, since there used to be Roman Baths in the area (of which no trace is left, however).
Before the Romans turned the village into a fortress it used to be an Etruscan town. the present layout is a result of alterations in the middle ages. Unfortunately earthquakes in the 16th and 17th centuries have caused considerable damage to some of the main monuments of Bagnoregio.
Tourist Attractions in Bagnoregio
- Church of Sant’Agostino: Originally a Romanesque/Gothic church, transformed into its present state in the 14th century. 16th Century frescoes (by a.o. Taddeo di Bartolo) and an 11th century wooden crucifix embellish the interior.
- Church of San Bonaventura: At the site of an earlier church, the Chiesa di Sant’Angelo, which in 1632 was acquired by the Compagnia di San Bonaventura.
Tourist Attractions near Bagnoregio
- The Grotta di San Bonaventura, a cave where this philosopher used to retire to in order to do his thinking.
- Civita di Bagnoregio is nicknamed the “Dying City”, because of the erosion that is inexorably eating into the tuff stone it is built on.
- The Valle dei Calanchi with its chestnut tree forests.
A brief history of Bagnoregio
Civita di Bagnoregio is built on a high rock of tuff, which gives the town a castle-like appearance. Unfortunately, erosion (7 centimeters per year) is eating into this rock and from some of the buildings only the façade remains. This erosion is caused partly by wind and rain and partly by two small rivers, the Rio Chiaro and the Rio Torbido. At one time Bagnoregio and present-day Civita di Bagnoregio were also connected by a headland, but this has been completely eroded.
The name of the city is derived from Balneum Regis and refers to the many thermal spas that used to be found in the area. Its origins are Etruscan, but it was only in the Middle Ages that Bagnoregio became an important center. The oldest document referring to Balneum Regis is in a papal letter written by Gregorio Magno.
The oldest archaeological finds in the area go back further and date back to the New Stone Age. These include tools and weapons such as flint arrowheads, small spears, knives, scrapers and axes.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Bagnoregio fell first to the Goths and then to the Lombards. Charlemagne then gave it to the pope.
Bagnoregio remained the property of the church until it was subdued by Orvieto. Later it came into the possession of the Monaldeschi family.
Although the city became independent in the 12th century, and experienced a political and artistic boom, the threat from Orvieto still remained.
In 1348, the population of Bagnoregio was decimated due to a plague epidemic, which sometimes claimed as many as 500 victims in a single day.
In 1494, Bagnorgerio’s troops succeeded in destroying the castle of the Monaldeschi della Cervara and was finally freed from the threat of these hated tyrants.
In 1494, the French King Charles VIII was kept out of the city when he was on his way to Naples, to subdue that city. Pope Alexander VI Borgia showed no gratitude, however, and in 1496 decreed that Bagnoregio would be ruled by a regime of Cardinals, a situation that would last until 1612. In that year the town came under the Apostolic Chamber of Viterbo, but the municipal statutes of the town itself, dating back to 1373, remained valid.
In 1695, a major earthquake occurred.
It was not until 1867 that another noteworthy event took place. At the so-called Battle of Bagnorea, Garibaldi’s volunteers fought against the Pope’s troops.
In 1870 the city became part of the new Kingdom of Italy.