Within a very short distance from Viterbo, Celleno Vecchia, the Ghost Town (roughly 20 km from Viterbo and very near Civita di Bagnoregio, the Dying Town) is without any doubt worth a visit, preferably in June, the month of cherries, the robin juicy round fruits which – among the various legends – gave the name to the small town (“Cherry” in Italian is “Ciliegia”).

The origins of Civita go back to 2500 years ago, when the Etruscans founded it along one of the most ancient italian routes connecting river Tiber to lake Bolsena. 

 

All’antico abitato di Civita si accedeva mediante cinque porte, mentre oggi la porta detta di Santa Maria o della Cava, ne rappresenta quella principale, inoltre è possibile accedere a Civita dalla valle dei calanchi attraverso una galleria scavata nella roccia. La struttura urbanistica dell’intero abitato è di origine etrusca,[senza fonte] costituita da cardi e decumani secondo l’uso etrusco e poi romano, mentre l’intero rivestimento architettonico risulta medioevale e rinascimentale. Numerose sono le testimonianze della fase etrusca di Civita, specialmente nella zona detta di San Francesco vecchio; infatti nella rupe sottostante il belvedere di San Francesco vecchio è stata ritrovata una piccola necropoli etrusca. Anche la grotta di San Bonaventura, nella quale si dice che San Francesco risanò il piccolo Giovanni Fidanza, che divenne poi San Bonaventura, è in realtà una tomba a camera etrusca. Gli etruschi fecero di Civita (di cui non conosciamo l’antico nome) una fiorente città, favorita dalla posizione strategica per il commercio, grazie alla vicinanza con le più importanti vie di comunicazione del tempo.

Del periodo etrusco rimangono molte testimonianze: di particolare suggestione è il cosiddetto “Bucaione”, un profondo tunnel che incide la parte più bassa dell’abitato, e che permette l’accesso, direttamente dal paese, alla Valle dei Calanchi. In passato erano inoltre visibili molte tombe a camera, scavate alla base della rupe di Civita e delle altre pareti di tufo limitrofe che, nel corso dei secoli, furono in gran parte fagocitate dalle innumerevoli frane. Del resto, già gli stessi Etruschi dovettero far fronte ai problemi di sismicità e di instabilità dell’area, che nel 280 a.C. si concretarono in scosse telluriche e smottamenti.[senza fonte] All’arrivo dei romani, nel 265 a.C., furono riprese le imponenti opere di canalizzazione delle acque piovane e di contenimento dei torrenti avviate dagli etruschi.

Antiche opere di Etruschi e Romani contro l’erosione[modifica | modifica wikitesto]

 

Chiesa di San Donato a Civita di Bagnoregio

Come detto sopra, il problema dell’erosione era già all’epoca degli Etruschi molto importante. Quindi misero in atto alcune opere che avevano il preciso scopo di proteggere Civita dai terremoti e dagli smottamenti, arginando fiumi e costruendo canali di scolo per il corretto deflusso delle acque piovane.[senza fonte] I Romani ripresero le opere dei loro predecessori, ma dopo di loro queste furono trascurate ed il territorio ebbe un rapido degrado che portò, infine, all’abbandono della Civita.

Cherries, first “imported” by the Greeks during the VIth century, play an important role for the local welfare and are widely cultivated in the area: all the 52 species of this fruit are present here and a local festival (“sagra”) is held during the month of June.

The Cherries Festival (Sagra delle ciliegie) is not the only event of a certain importance for the inhabitants and tourists. 

During the third week of July the myth of Harpies is renewed every year with a wonderful happening bringing back to memory the legend (one of the many) of the three harpies who fought against and were beaten by the Argonauts.

Should you happen to be in the area in July, don’t miss the opportunity of this happening and listen to the talk of local “guides” (more exactly, “narratore di comunità”, a group of natives deeply in love with the small village and ready to show you and describe this wonderful hamlet – www.prolococelleno.it).The 

 

You’ll find out that (according to one of the many legends) the harpy Celeno – daughter of  Taumante and Elettra – married Ectonio. As a Godness, she was semi-immortal while the husband grew older and older until death… unable to accept his departure, she decided to suicide throwing herself from a rock. Zeus, moved to sorrow by her act, originated a cherry three from her dead body, the very first cherry three from which come all the other 52 species spread around the world…

A tale, like the many still present in local culture, still interesting and appreciated and which justifies the presence of the figure of an harpy in the town’s emblem.

The pagan myth of the three harpies was in force until the Vth century a.C. when the Church decided to cancel and replaced it by San Donato, a saint which has never been present in the area and whose name was extracted by lot among the many saints known by the Church.

Celleno (approx 1300 inhabitants) is now divided into two separated “locations”. The “new” and the “ancient” Celleno, the latter best known as the “Ghost Town”, whose inhabitants moved to the new part in 1951 being the original village too dangerous to live in after a strong earthquake (June 8th, 1931).

The Ghost Town is not visible from the main road. You should first reach the “new” Celleno and follow the brown posts showing the way to reach the “old” town, some 2,5km to the East. (according to the many legentds)(one of the many)

Celleno_0087

Before reaching the foot of the rock where a slope leads to the center of the hamlet (leave the car somewhere, being the town closed to cars) you meet the Franciscan monastery dedicated to San Giovanni Battista (XVIIth century), now converted into a family holidays house. Grab the chance and pay a visit: it has a very interesting cloister with wall paintings dedicated to the Saint’s life.

 

Entrance to the hamlet

 

The visit to the hamlet starts from the slope (which leads to the main square in front of the Castle, today belonging to Castellani’s Family. Enrico Castellani (born in 1930 in Castelmassa and died in Viterbo in 2017) was an important Italian artist whose love for this area pushed him to restore most of the hamlet.

 

 

The hamlet was struck by an earthquake in 1695 and in 1951. These events, the steady erosion of a small stream and man’s carelessness drove this small center to the present situation.

Today, a visit is possible thanks to the interest and intervention of the new generations who, a few years ago, started a hard work of restoration and study bringing an ancient civilization to shine again.

Visitors can admire the rests of the castle and the impressive walls, the entrances to the many canteens all connected by underground paths and passages, the medieval “butti” (from the Italian verb “buttare”- to dispose of), deep wells where garbage was thrown into (and covered once the well was full), an original bread oven where the inhabitants were used to cook their bread once in a while and many other collapsed remains whose memory will carve a deep sign in everybody minds,

 

 

The hamlet of Celleno Vecchia might be a starting point for another trip in the area, whose beauty can be hardly told: the Gole dell’Infernaccio, (42°31′38.55″N12°07′52.1″Ewhere a stream – River Rigo – has carved deep sceneries known as “forre” (present anywhere in the province of Viterbo).

A visit to these “Gole” (“gola” in Italian means “throat” as well “deep, narrow valley”)  asks for a some skill and an expert guide, being dangerous for those who don’t know the environment but there is nothing else which can be compared in beauty.

To make a long story short, Celleno Vecchia is one of the many spots in Tuscia really worth a visit, a place you can be proud to mention to friends once back home.

As far as flyfishing is concerned, you are not far from Lake Bolsena (black bass, pike, chub, carp, tench…) and within reasonable distance from trout water.