One of the interesting lost sites within an hour of Orvieto we made a Camera Etrusca excursion to the hermitage of Ripatonna.
Much of what is now known as northern Latium north of Rome on the borders of Tuscany was until the 1930s a veritable wilderness.
Saracen pirates had scourged the area and malaria had done the rest.
Not surprisingly the region was infested with bandits and outlaws, but also with hermits, lepers, outcasts, monks and nuns. Many of latter led a troglodyte existence hollowing out dwellings in the soft tufa cliffs along the river Fiora.
Ripatonna Cicognina was inhabited by a community of about 200 between XV and XVII centuries. There was a church which once had frescoes by the Sienna School depicting Sant’Antonio Abate, the first Christian hermit.
It is a steep but not a hard climb up to the cliff dwelling. The tufa volcanic rock is soft and easy to excavate but then oxidises and hardens, an ideal building material.