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Wildlife Camera » Mules to the rescue of the Dying City

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Mules to the rescue of the Dying City

14 May 2007


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riding mules

From Alliance Press Features Correspondent, Rome.
The Army used to have a saying: “If you can’t get there from here, you need a mule.” The famously stubborn half-horse, half-donkey is capable of going almost anywhere, and carrying a large load all the way.

And now mules are coming to the rescue of the ancient fortress town of Civita di Bagnoregio, perched 1400ft above the gorges of the river Tiber in central Italy.

 As its roads have crumbled and bridges fallen down, La Citta Che Muore, “The Dying City”, has lost most of its inhabitants – only 20 all-year-round residents are left on the hilltop where the Etruscans established an impregnable fort above the clouds. The answer, according to the town’s mayor, is to bring mules back on to the narrow winding tracks up to the village. More than 3000 tourists make the climb to Civita every day in summer and the mayor is sure that even more could be attracted if they could make the trip on mule-back.

Tourism experts agree and quote mule treks in Arizona’s Grand Canyon as a good example. “Hundreds of people want to enjoy the dizzying experience of going up the cliffs on mule-back. It’s scary but safe, just like a rollercoaster. One of the great tourism experiences of the world.”

While the mules are carrying their paying passengers up to Civita from its nearest neighbouring town of Bagnoregio, the mayor will be looking for an architect to design a new bridge to replace the 30-year-old structure which has crumbled and caused the crisis. A prize of £40,000 is being offered for the best design.

There is reported to be an £11 million plan to restore Civita’s road link, but this may take 10 years. In the meantime, the mules are going to have some hard climbing to do.

Footnote: A mule is the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey, and almost always sterile.  The Wikipedia entry on these animals says: “The mule possesses the sobriety, patience, endurance and sure-footedness of the ass, and the vigour, strength and courage of the horse. Operators of working animals generally find mules preferable to horses: mules show less impatience under the pressure of heavy weights, whereas their skin, harder and less sensitive than that of horses, renders them more capable of resisting sun and rain. Their hooves are harder than horses, and they show a natural resistance to disease and insects.” (copyright) (Photo of Grand Canyon mules from US National Parks Service.)


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