A Guest Post by Valter Baldu
I’m so happy to share today’s post by Valter of Tourist by Chance — Italian born, living in Rome and loving being a tourist in his own country. His blog is rich with Italian travel details and photos, and he often takes readers off the typical tourist path.
Today he writes about the Park of Monsters, not too far outside of Rome but seemingly a world away…
Welcome the Parco dei Mostri (Park of Monsters) of Bomarzo, as it is most commonly known. A park filled with bizarre sculptures, often gigantic and monstrous, as you follow the path around what was once the garden of royalty. Villa delle Meraviglie (House of Wonders), Sacro Bosco (Sacred Grove), and Giardini di Bomarzo (Gardens of Bomarzo) are also names given.
There are a total of 24 sculptures to be admired, including such works as the Casa Pendente (Hanging House) pictured above, and Il Tempio di Eternità (The Temple of Eternity), below, to name two.
Cool Fact: The Hanging House plays some strange effects on your brain, due to the fact that its center of gravity is altered. You may experience dizziness or difficulty maintaining yourself upright and stable, but it is a great feat for those that resist! I also read that this was once the main entrance to the park! Imagine what a trip that must have been!
A visit to the park will unfold in a series of stages ranging between mythology and fantasy.
Asymmetrical and unnaturally elegant, the park was the project of Pirro Ligorio, a student of Michelangelo. You may know Ligorio as the architect that completed the Cathedral of St. Peter, after Michelangelo’s death and Villa d’Este, in Tivoli. Ligoria was commissioned to build this park in the 16th century by Prince Pier Francesco Orsini.
The exact reason for its construction is not 100% certain. One story is that the sculptures represented an initiatory path of human evolution, created obviously to impress guests of the Prince. While the other is that the prince requested to have this park built, following the death of his wife, a tribute to his lost Princess.
Regardless, one thing that both stories have in common is that it was created with the intention to build a ‘House of Wonders’ that would not only be one of a kind but it would be eternal. Back in the day it was an important project, one which transformed giant blocks of lava stone that lay inert in the ground into whimsical sculptures, which for many would be simple oddities.
After the death of the Prince, the descendants left and the park was completely abandoned. So much so that farmers started using the land for cultivation and to have their animals graze on the unkempt grass.
No one seemed interested anymore in understanding the significance of the statues. Some were moved from their original location or covered in dirt! Ultimately this was the same fate that had befallen on all other sacred groves of the territory.
Though abandoned, the likes of Goethe, Lorrin, Dali (hundreds of years after it was built), visited this once gorgeous park, to describe the symbols of this unique garden. In turn, it started attracting the curiosity of others and was used as inspiration for many artists.
The Park of Monsters remained in oblivion until 1954 when it was bought by Mr. Giovanni Bettini who brought the park and all its creatures back to life.
I highly recommend a visit, especially if you are an expat and living in Rome. Tourists will enjoy visiting too, to do something different from the usual things Rome offers!
The park is located near Bomarzo in the province of Viterbo, in the Lazio region of Italy. It is only 90km north of Rome and a car is necessary, as public transportation to the park is a little tricky to say the least.
Details on tickets and opening times, you can review them at the Sacro Bosco website.
After being born in Italy but living abroad for many years, Valter is now living in Rome and loving being a self-proclaimed tourist in his own backyard. “An Italian, a camera, and a few glasses of wine discovering Italy” is how Valter describes his travel blog Tourist by Chance. I describe it as a feast for all those who love Italy! Hop over there and spend some time traveling Italy virtually with Valter, and keep up with him around the web via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. (I was thrilled to share a guest post on Tourist by Chance recently– read it here!)
Grazie mille, Valter, for your expertise and insight, and for sharing your love of Italy with all of us! –Stacy di Anna Pollard