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All alone on a hilltop is one of Italy's most magnificent hilltop villages . A village called Civita di Bagnoregio. Visiting here is to return to another century, to enter another world.
Many are the gorgeous villages in Italy but this one is super special. For one thing, it is so quiet - come here a little out of season, and the silence, particularly at dawn, is overwhelming. Of course, being completely car free helps a lot.
According to the owner of Gerani Rossi ( the very best place to stay in the town), the only motorized vehicles are a little tractor that brings supplies in to the residents and the occasional vespa.
In fact, If you arrive by car, you'll need to leave it on the opposite hill and walk across the causeway that joins the two hilltops.
Once you get across the causeway, you're in for a treat. From the moment you enter the impressive Roman gateway, time starts scrolling back through the centuries, and by the time you're out the other side of the arch, you've gone back at least six hundred years.
There's no real list of particular buildings to see because everything is worth seeing. My advice is to simply lose yourself in the maze of lanes and alleys, enjoy the view whenever you glimpse it between buildings, and stop for a slow cappuccino in the piazza.
Don't rush anything here - to rush would be a sacrilege of the very spirit of this and similar towns. Actually, my advice would be to spend at least a night here at the Gerani Rossi.
Stroll the streets in the evening, enjoy an aperitivo, followed by a great meal under the spectacular starry skies. Simply savor the atmosphere of life in a car-free and beautiful medieval piazza late into the night. This is true food for the soul.
A friend of mine's nonna (grandmother) chatted with me and told me a tale of how things once were here, nearly 80 years ago, when she was a child. She tells me that the narrow cobbled lanes meant that a family, their dog, and maybe a donkey too could all pass by without a problem.
They'd often stop and chat with other families, and if more people came by, well, then it was like a community mini-festival. They'd all walk a little farther until they came to the piazza. Here they'd gossip to their hearts' content, the kids would run and play, and the donkeys and dogs would catch up on the latest donkey and dog news.
Elsewhere in Italy and much of the world, families are now so much smaller, yet they all need big SUVs to get from A to B. In many little towns, they hoot impatiently when they get stuck in traffic along the narrow lanes, and they speed off again as fast as they can, as soon as they can.
I guess that's progress.
Thank goodness that world is one that will never come to Civita di Bagnoregio. Here, nothing much has changed since Nonna's time. Long may it stay so.