Who Will Save These Dying Italian Towns?

Who Will Save These Dying Italian Towns?

Near-empty villages try to hold on to an endangered way of life — and some of the country’s most important artisanal traditions.

By DEBORAH NEEDLEMANS

THE FIRST THING that must be said about the ancient town of Civita di Bagnoregio, just two hours away from Rome and Florence, is that it is beautiful. From a distance, it looks literally otherworldly: The town sits so high atop a perilously steep pinnacle of eroding volcanic rock that it seems as if it’s perched upon clouds rather than tethered to the earth. Its very sediment is strafed with 2,500 years of architectural history: Etruscan caves, ancient remains, medieval dwellings and Renaissance villas…