Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Day 55: Orvieto to Bagnoregio

I must admit that I felt a little sad to be leaving Orvieto. It is such an intriguing city, with its winding medieval layout and its beautiful tufa buildings, that I was reluctant to continue. Even with our extra rest day I felt that we had barely begun to experience the possibilities of this gem. Orvieto has moved to the top of my list of favorite towns and cities of the trip.

Nevertheless, our rest day was over and it was time to continue to Rome. As noted yesterday, there will be no more rest days until we reach the Eternal City and the end of the Via.

We began the stage by departing Orvieto and making our way down the south side of the tufa cliffs. The early part of the route followed the main road, until we reached a point where a small road departed to the left. Experience has left me with a small cringe whenever the Via suddenly takes an innovative route away from a main road. My hesitation was again justified. The road ran down to a small house and vanished. A trail (of sorts) continued past the house and was consumed by a patch of blackberry brambles and stinging nettles.

Once more into the breach, dear friends.

We bushwhacked down the hill, flailing violently away at the overgrown path with our hiking poles. Mary’s legs got slashed up quite badly by some renegade blackberry vines, and then she managed to stumble into a nettle patch and ended up with a nasty rash all over her leg.

Mary of the Brambles

We whacked away gamely and ultimately reached the bottom of this lovely path --- where it crossed the main road we had previously been walking on.

Medieval Aqueduct

The trail from this point followed a medieval aqueduct that had been built to supply Orvieto with water. It ran steeply uphill from the point at which we emerged from the bramble patch, and the next three kilometers consisted of a vigorous ascent up the ridge that stands to the south of Orvieto. We knew it was coming, however, and were mentally prepared for the climb. The ascent began to soften by the time we reached Rubello Castle, a medieval castle built to control the road south from Orvieto.

Castel Rubello

We stopped for an iced tea in Porano, and then continued south on the altopiano. The weather was some of the best that I have seen in weeks: heavy grey clouds had rolled over the sun, and a cool breeze played across our faces. It has been quite a while since hiking has been pleasurable --- it was nice to be reminded that it could be.

We walked through country lanes, past farm fields, and ultimately made our way down into the town of Lubriano. As we approached the center of the town, we saw many bottegas carved into the tufa cliff face and closed off with small doors.


We also had our first view of Civita di Bagnoregio from Lurbiano. The Civita is one of the wonders of the modern world. It is a small town built on an eroding tufa prominence. Originally an Etruscan settlement, wind and water have gnawed away at the base of the town, sending building after building crashing into the valley below. Today, only a handful of people live there, and it is reached by a bridge that runs from Bagnoregio.

The sun had emerged by the time we reached Bagnoregio. We took our showers, had a little lunch, and by late afternoon, were ready to walk out to Civita di Bagnoregio.

The Bridge to Civita di Bagnoregio

Mary and I both agreed that although it was interesting, it was more like a tiny tourist attraction than a real town. Although Rick Steves wrote that this was his favorite Italian hill town, it is hard to see why. During the day it is overrun with tourists, and in the late afternoon/evening when we paid it a visit, it simply felt like a ghost town or a stage set. The city that is dying cannot hold a candle to a vibrant hill town like Orvieto. It is pretty, it is being slowly destroyed by the inexorable forces of nature, but it will not go down as one of our favorite places on the Via.

A crumbling building in Civita di Bagnoregio

Today’s Distance: 18.4 KM

Total Distance: 1055.8 KM

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