On our way to Rome we decide to visit one of those places that on travel magazines is often described as a hidden treasure: the Monsters Garden of Bomarzo.
Very easy to reach from Rome (more or less an one hour drive), you will find it right at the foot of Bomarzo an ancient village, located on top of a hill close to Mount Cimino.
The Villa of Marvels or Sacred Wood (these are the other two names of the garden) was designed by Prince Vicino Orsini in collaboration with the great Architect Pirro Logorio.
We are back in 1552 and the most beautiful Villas in Italy featured extraordinary gardens leaning on vast terraces, magnificent, perfect, obsessively symmetrical views, designed with a complex geometry that reveals the recently born human authority on wild nature.
Italian gardens were a triumph of controlled pleasure and compulsive organization that today armies of gardeners are required to painstakingly keep intact.
We will visit them for you and we will share the peaceful feeling of a totally subjected nature but while we wait for spring to do her work we show you a totally different place, built in a totally different spirit.
Vicino Orsini, Prince of Bomarzo, dedicated himself to creating an eccentric “wood” using the peperino rock blocks emerging from the ground and sculpting them into enigmatic figures of monsters, dragons, mythological subjects and exotic animals, along with a crooked house, a funerary temple, fountains, seats and obelisks with carved mottoes and inscriptions.
Legions of puzzled researchers tried to find a link between the sculptures scattered in the garden, a mysterious link that could explain the thought of its creator, but no one has ever been able to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Even if we can’t imagine the real intentions of Prince Orsini, the whole complex was for sure a celebration of his love to his wife Giulia Farnese to whom is dedicated the temple placed on a small hill surrounded by a quiet, large, green open space at the very top of the garden.
After the death of the Prince, the heirs abandoned the park, and only after 400 years, the Bettini family, recovered the premise with a thorough restoration work and reopened it to the public the way we can now admire it.
My friend Paola whose father’s family was originally from the area told me that as a child she used to come to the abandoned park and play on the statues almost swallowed by the overwhelming nature. At the entrance of the park you can see black and white pictures from the 50’s with shepherds posing with their sheeps in front of the terrifying stone figures.
This park was rediscovered and revalued in time also through the efforts of many artists, including Salvador Dalì who was so impressed by the visit to the park that he found the inspiration for one of his works: the visionary The Temptation of St. Anthony.
All the statues that suddenly appear to the eye of the visitor are suggestive and mysterious but some of them, as archetypal figures, strike the imagination: an elephant that envelops a Roman soldier with his trunk, furies and mermaids, heraldic bears, hieratic ogres and dragons seem to wait along the way to our surprise.
Of all, what struck me the most, however, was the Leaning House, a purposely slanted house built on a sloping rock that can be entered through a small bridge that connects it with the outside wall.
As you try to stay upright in an oblique environment, all your senses are deceived and you’re trapped in a maritime nausea on mainland.
I’m sure there is some psychological explanation towards my attraction to the Leaning house.
My suggestion? Go visit the Monster Park and find out which misterious figure is the one that entangles your unconscious.
Additional Photo Credits: Renato Lafranconi