Travel Writing Adventures
Beautiful Civita Di Bognoregio in Italy
A Breathtaking Glimpse Into a Medieval City
by Joe Mack
My previous trip to Italy was planned around visiting Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast. Driving from the airport in Rome to San Donato in Poggio only takes about three hours to drive. We stayed at the Palazzo Malaspina in San Donato in Poggio for our stay in Tuscany. You can learn more about the palazzo at http://www.palazzomalaspina.it. The hostess, Maria Pellizzari, is very knowledgeable about Tuscany and the Chianti Region of Italy. And she makes hearty breakfasts that are included in the cost of the room.
While in Tuscany, naturally we had to see Pisa, Florence, San Gimignano, and Volterra. All beautiful towns in their own right. From Tuscany the trip goes to Pompeii and then the Amalfi Coast. But that is a 5 ½ drive even on the autostrada where the speed limit is almost nonexistent. And I did not want to drive that many hours in one day.
I knew of this town called Civita Di Bognoregio via Rick Steves, the Travel Guru, who filmed one of the episodes from his travel show here. I did my research and knew this was at about the half way point between where I was and where I was going. I did my due diligence and found a hotel to stay in. There really are not many hotels or Bed and Breakfasts in Civita Di Bognoregio. Only two or three at the most. But I settled on Locanda Della Buona Ventura. You can find out more about this gem of an Inn on Trip Advisor (here).
We left early in the morning on Saturday, Easter Eve. Driving on the Autostrada is fine, but then it is necessary to take some secondary roads. The road conditions are ok. And the scenery is wonderful no matter where you drive in Italy. I stopped for lunch at a little family owned ristorante. No one speaks English here, but I do know some Italian so “tutto era buono”, “everything was good.”
Back in the car to let my GPS take me to Civita Di Bognoregio. But that gadget will only get you so far. I am in, what the GPS tells me, is Civita Di Bognoregio, but this is not I expected. Turns out I am in the other Civita, the newer one. And I ask directions in my broken Italian. Driving a bit further, I finally see signs for the town. And there is a place to park and get coffee and snacks. As I go around to the front of the building, I spot this jewel. It sits down in a ravine. But looks like a little volcano pointing up to the sky. I start shooting photos, how can I resist. Then get some coffee, and ask how to get to the parking area. Back in the car, down the hill, and under the bridge. I find the parking meter and put some coins in and hope I have enough time till morning when we leave.
We grab one suitcase, it is all we need for one night, and our umbrella since the weather does not look very promising. We start up the long ramp that leads to the main gate of the town. Half way up the ramp the heavens open. Wind, rain, 40-50 mile per hour gusts. I am holding the umbrella, my wife the suitcase, I hold on to her to help steady her from the wind and rain. The umbrella turns inside out several times. And we are still only three quarters of the way up the ramp. And we are both soaked.
We make it to the top and go through the main gate to town. We are met with the sight of a small piazza, a church, and many old buildings. Remember this town originated 2500 years ago, and looks it. I now have to find the gift shop where a girl named Lara will meet me. I find the shop, I find the girl. She welcomes us.
She gets the key, and grabs another umbrella, since it is still raining, and we walk across the street to the building that will be home for the night. I found out later that the building had collapsed over the years and was rebuilt using original material from the old structure.
We unpack, and are amazed at the room. Concrete base for the bed, windows overlooking the piazza, a bathroom with stone sinks and shower, and a window that penetrates the wall that has to be at least 12” thick with a piece of glass on the outside edge. The door is obviously original, and the keys are the largest room keys I have ever seen. I tell my wife to make herself comfortable and I head out to shoot some photos.
The streets all are dead ends. In any direction you go, you come to a point where it ends and drops off into the ravine. The back yards are the same way. Fences stopping you from tumbling into the abyss. I walk around shooting photo after photo. Amazed at this gem of a town. I do find one restaurant open and it is just across the piazza from our hotel. The place is called Trattoria Antica Forno and I decide this is where dinner will be.
I go to the room, get my wife, and tell her of my find. Her clothing is still wet, so basically she wears her pajamas to dinner. We open the door to the restaurant and find they are not open yet, they are still setting up for the night. We ask if we can wait, and they are agreeable. We sit and enjoy the view of this old restaurant, and I notice photos of Rick Steves on the walls of the place. He obviously had dinner here too when he visited this town. We at pasta, what else, some sausage, and drank lots of wine. If you have not been to Italy, the wine is plentiful. By the glass or by the bottle is very inexpensive. And all local. Salute.
Dinner is over and we make our way back to the room. By now it is dark outside. We have a small light in our room. I turn on the light and I decide to use a hair dryer to help dry out my shoes, which by now are soaked. Not long after turning it on, I trip a breaker and all the power is now off. I have to call the owner who begins to give me instructions on where the breaker box is and that I should go and reset the breaker. What a way to start the night. I do find the panel and reset the breaker. I then go back to my room and settle in for the night.
Next thing I know, church bells are ringing. I remember that the church is just across the piazza and it is Easter Morning. The bells are ringing to signify the resurrection of Christ. I also notice that the sun is finally out. I then try to use the coffee maker in our room which for some reason, either I can’ figure out or does not work. So I tell my wife, I am going out to shoot more photos in daylight, and I will find us some coffee. Little did I know, finding coffee was not going to be easy.
After walking the same streets as the night before, I find a shop keeper setting up for the day, and ask if I can get a cup of coffee. He tells me he is not a coffee shop but come back in 10-15 min and he will see what he can do. I walk through town a bit more, taking more photos, and then go back. He is ready to make me coffee and has the girl that works for him brew it for us in her coffee maker.
I bring the coffee to my wife and then we finish packing. We then begin the long trip down the ramp to the parking lot. At least the sun is shining this time, and the view of the valley is amazing. There are even people out heading up the ramp to go to Sunday services at the church. We find the car, put our bags in, and take one last look at this historical town. This was not a 5 star hotel stay, but with a building this old, any issues just add to the charm and magic. I will never forget the experience here in Civita Di Bognoregio. Now it’s off to Pompeii and then the Amalfi Coast.