By Meghan McEwen
January 31, 2013

It takes some effort to reach Lazio’s remote outpost of Civita di Bagnoregio, which teeters on a hilltop an 80-mile drive from Rome: the only way in is a steep uphill walk via a quarter-mile-long footbridge. Go through Civita’s gate, first carved out by Etruscans 2,500 years ago, and you’ll find a crumbling time capsule of ivy-clad arches, crooked cobblestoned lanes, and sun-flooded piazzas where the hamlet’s handful of residents gather and socialize. Speak a bit of Italian and someone might invite you over to taste their just-made lemon jam; linger in a café and you may bump into characters like Professor Medori, who can recite every poem ever written about Civita by heart.

Until recently, the only overnight options were a handful of unremarkable bedrooms above restaurants, but two stylish new properties have just arrived. In May, Paolo Crepet—a novelist, TV personality, and one of Italy’s most prominent criminal psychiatrists—opened Corte della Maestà ($$$) inside a sixth-century bishop’s house. The stone-walled retreat has five cozy rooms decorated with antique furniture and art. Guests can pick figs, apples, and other snacks from the garden and take a Turkish steam bath.

Meanwhile, the Italian-born, Chicago-based architect and designer Patrizio Fradiani has painstakingly renovated a dilapidated stone palazzotto: Domus Civita ($$$), a modern three-bedroom rental with a cliffside garden and the only pool in town. Fradiani bought the property on impulse during his first visit last year. “Civita,” he says, “is the kind of place where writers, painters, gardeners, and thinkers are all living the kind of life they want.” Now travelers can, too.

Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000