CIVITA DI BAGNOREGIO, Italy (NY Times)— Forgive Sandro Rocchi if he seems a smidgen satisfied as he enjoys a midday glass of red wine at his children’s restaurant and relishes the unlikely revival of this stunning hilltop village. He moved away in the 1970s for lack of prospects. Now there are shops, restaurants, boutique properties and gobs of tourists.
“The place has come back to life,” Mr. Rocchi said.
There is a teensy problem, though.
Civita di Bagnoregio is slowly, steadily collapsing, and it has been for centuries. Landslides have incrementally eroded the sheer cliffs, at one point slicing off the ancient stone residence of the village’s most famous native, Giovanni di Fidanza, the medieval theologian canonized as St. Bonaventure. For years, this losing war of geological attrition was not such a big deal because barely anyone lived in Civita, and not too many people visited.
The year-round population is still tiny — maybe six people, maybe eight — but Civita, 75 miles north of Rome in central Italy, is now a tourism dynamo, with more than 500,000 visitors expected this year. It is a candidate to become a Unesco World Heritage site. It is the centerpiece of a regional tourism campaign and is featured on city buses in Rome. It is, everyone agrees, a marvel.
Photo Tourists played on the columns outside the San Donato Church in Civita. More than 500,000 visitors are expected this year. Credit Nadia Shira Cohen for The New York Times And it is still collapsing, if very slowly. In May, a hillside gave way near the elevated one-lane road that leads to the footbridge that leads to the village. The road remains stable as crews are working on the hillsides; tourists have not seemed to notice. A local geologist estimated that Civita had suffered about 10 landslides during the past year, some of them small, others more damaging.
“Rain is the main problem,” said the geologist, Giovanni Maria Di Buduo, who oversees a local museum dedicated to the geology of Civita and the surrounding region. “Rain gets into the fractures of the volcanic rock and creates alterations. In the last five centuries, we’ve seen a reduction of the cliff by about 20 percent due to landslides.”
Given the newfound tourist trade, as well as the historical and cultural significance of a village first built by the ancient Etruscans, the Lazio regional government is moving to respond. One possibility is to push for a national law granting special status and funding to Civita. Also, Lazio officials say they will draft a 10-year plan for a holistic approach to reinforcing and protecting the village, after more ad hoc efforts in the past....
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