One should not get attached to a bar of soap regardless of its virtues. It could be everything it claims to be, an anti-aging agent, a softening balm that soothes the depths and breadth of the body. It may even have the power to cleanse the soul. I won’t argue those points.
This bar is saponi naturali, made with olive oil and acqua di Civita. Thinking of it and the place where I found it, makes me forget everything I’m doing and head for the tub. What better tribute to its glory than to use it? I want to pour a glass of wine and run a hot bath. But then I pause, because, and you’ll forgive the pun, there’s the rub. Using this raft of fragrance will cause it to wear down, and continued use, disappear completely, a heavy reminder that the place where it was made, an ancient hilltop town in Italy, is living on borrowed time.
Once you have trekked up the pedestrian bridge that connects the town of Bagnoregio (about 75 miles northwest of Rome) to its much older counterpart, and walked its quiet streets, at turns shaded by fulsome persimmon trees and at others, decorated by medieval-era depictions of Madonna and child, the thought of Civita di Bagnoregio sliding into the valleys below is saddening.
Owing to its crumbling foundation of volcanic ash, sand, clay, and 2500 years of Etruscan, Roman and Italian debris, there’s probably no fighting the natural erosion of the cliff and periodic landslides, that have carved the faces of the hills nearby. Indeed, the area is generally known as Italy’s badlands, the backdrop for a spaghetti western.
While it’s still here, however, there are bed and breakfasts for overnight visitors, restaurants and shops such as Acqua di Civita for the fragrant perfumes and soaps, and the fascinating Chiesa San Donato, which was built in the seventh century and so far, has survived earthquakes and two world wars.
As for the bath and the wine and the whatnot, I resolve to put the soap away for now. It’s a silly gesture maybe, but I wish to preserve it as a memento of my travels through the world, just as I wish for Civita to endure.
I hope too that the current mayor and citizens of Bagnoregio will succeed in their recent proposal to have the old city designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.