Italy's Dying Town

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Central Italy’s ‘Dying Town’, Civita, seeks recognition from UNESCO

Civita, the small hilltop town in central Italy is expecting the World Heritage Site nod from UNESCO, learn more…

Thursday, 8th April 2021

Calling a city “The Dying Town” may repel visitors but the hilltop town of Civita in Central Italy has indeed learned to make a living out of the inevitable episode of death and dying. And the city has resisted the definitive death and dying for all these years which has actually urged Italy to nominate Civita and its surrounding lands consisting of stiff vales and cliffs commonly referred to as “badlands” to be a World Heritage Site that would enjoy the accreditation of UNESCO.


Centuries back, the town of Civita was far larger than what it is today and linked via road to the other settlements. But, earthquakes, landslides, erosion, and cracks have lessened the town’s size most dramatically and the result was that the town was left sitting lone atop a spur most spectacularly.


In the winters when clouds cover the sky at a lower level, the town resembles a castle floating in the air. When the sky is clear and cloudless the rocky spu atop which the town sits looks similar to a slick of layered cake.


Clay and sediments coming from an inland sea nearly a million years back offers support to the strata of magma and compacted ash from the subsequent volcanic outbursts.


It is the dream and passion of any geologist to delve deep into the past, present & future of the city with studies still going on regarding a severe landslide that had occurred at Civita in 1114.


“During three millennia, regressive erosion has practically reduced Civita to a nucleus, leaving the square and a few streets around it,” said geologist Luca Costantini, aged 49 yrs, who is currently working on a project to study as well as decrease the rate of erosion in the town.


In the underground caverns carved out of the Tufo, a kind of soft and spongy volcanic rock, steel bars have been used to hold the walls together.


“Our motto is ‘resilience’ because Civita was founded by the Etruscans, passed through the Roman era and the entire medieval period to reach the present day,” stated Luca Profili, the mayor of Bagnoregio (Of which the town of Civita is a part).


“This place is so fragile,” he stated. The fragility is fathomed in the part through an “extensometer”, an external rod with telescopic properties that traces the movement


The Civita town that exists today is majorly belonging to the medieval era and measures nearly 152 by the 91 meters (500/300 feet); i.e. even lesser than two football pitches put together. The town’s primary square is nearly a basketball court’s size.


Once spread across the hill and three times its present size, the town, in the course of the centuries, has collapsed due to recurrent landslides. Today the town is accessible through a lengthy, steep ramp for the golf carts and the pedestrians to pass by.


Permanent residents’ number in the city keeps fluctuating between 10 and 14 based on the season. Prior to the pandemic, the town of Civita was an important attraction for the tourists journeying between Florence and Rome.

Road signs point the visitors to “Civita – The Dying Town”. Stefano Lucarini, aged 29 years, purchased a restaurant in the ‘dying town’; Civita in the month of March 2020, just a couple of days prior to the first round of covid triggered a lockdown.


“The timing was not great,” he said jokingly. But still, he has an optimistic outlook regarding this and thinks that post-pandemic, the town will return to its normal status.


“The environmental risk is worrying (but) we hope that for many years everyone will be able to enjoy the town,” he opined.


Roberto Pomi, the spokesman of the mayor, said that Italy had submitted a proposal for the heritage site in the month of January and is hoping that UNESCO may decide on this by June in the coming year.

The News Talkie Bureau



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