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The "Dying City" of Civita di Bagnoregio: Background information when reading Return to Valetto

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Return to Valetto by Dominic Smith

Return to Valetto

A Novel

by Dominic Smith
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  • First Published:
  • Jun 13, 2023
  • Paperback:
  • Jun 2024
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About This Book

The "Dying City" of Civita di Bagnoregio

This article relates to Return to Valetto

Civita di Bagnoregio Dominic Smith's novel Return to Valetto was in part inspired by his visit to Civita di Bagnoregio, a town roughly 60 miles north of Rome. Known as "Il paese che muore" or "The Dying City," this tiny village sits atop a crumbling column of clay and tufa (a type of soft volcanic rock common in the region). As the column continues to erode the city's livable area decreases; the village will eventually be destroyed.

Civita di Bagnoregio, frequently referred to as just Civita, was founded around 500 BCE by the Etruscans, a civilization that ruled central Italy from approximately the 8th to the 3rd centuries BCE. The city was ideally situated on a towering plateau rising out of a valley between two rivers, the Rio Chiaro and the Rio Torbido. Its height gave it a commanding view of the territory below and protected its residents from floods and malaria that plagued the lowlands. Rio Torbido is a tributary located near the mouth of the Tiber River – a strategically important waterway...

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