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Jun 5, 2016 8:16 AM CST
|On a recent guided tour of gardens near Rome, this one I had most been looking forward to seing: the so-called “Monster Park” at Bomarzo. Its creator, Duke Orsini, in the mid-1500’s employed the same craftsmen who worked on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to carve a number of gigantic, bizarre, and horrifying works of art in the sacro bosco (sacred grove) on his country estate. Historians think the Duke had either been sent mad by grief at the loss of his wife or wished to make allegorical statements about the Pope and his cardinals, or perhaps both, but whatever the reason the result is still worth looking at more than 400 years later.
Due to overstaying at our previous garden visit, we were behind schedule, and our bus driver did his best to make up for lost time as we headed towards Bomarzo. We raced through the village, looking for “Sacro Bosco” signs, and then followed a long, winding, narrow road down a wooded hill. When we arrived at an intersection with a major road in the valley we realized we had missed a turning somewhere, so our driver turned the bus around, and we raced back up the hill. Sure enough, on the outskirts of Bomarzo village, we found the turning. Once we arrived at the park, the ticket office gave our tour guide, Susan, a hard time. Normally, a guide is given complimentary admission, but the ticket clerk insisted on charging for Susan as well as her group. Then they refused to issue a receipt, so Susan had to ask us for our cancelled tickets, once we had all passed through the barrier. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Susan, all the tickets had “€0” printed on the back and so were of no use for her tax records.
With no time to waste, we hurried into the park, which was heavily wooded. We had each been given an information brochure that included a map and a list of the trees and bushes to be found in the wood. The map showed all the famous carvings, but not the paths linking them, and we ended up just following paths at random through the undergrowth. Completely lost, we stumbled upon the first collection of statues: a row of acorns and pinecones about 10ft tall presided over by a gigantic bear, and some female figures with snakes for legs.
After that, we discovered hidden in the bushes Hannibal’s elephant crushing a Roman soldier, an open mouth with a picnic table for a tongue, a dragon, and a huge woman with a flower pot on her head.
The leaning house, built against a hillside, invited us into its top room to experience the disorientation of what looked like a level floor in fact being inclined. It had us reeling about as if we were drunk. The angle of tilt only became obvious when we saw the whole house from the side.
Beyond the house, we encountered a giant tearing someone in half, a huge turtle carrying a statue, and a monstrous mouth.
In complete contrast, the temple that the Count built in memory of his late wife had nothing grotesque about it.
We didn’t see all the sculptures or identify most of the trees, as we ran out of time. It took a while to find our way back through the woods to the entrance, but we made it out before the park closed, and we didn’t lose anyone. Rounding up lost visitors must be a daily chore for the park staff.
Jun 5, 2016 8:24 AM CST
|The list of trees and bushes to be found in the wood is as follows:
Ficus carica domestica
Prunus cerasifera var. pissardii
Rosa (tea roses)
Jun 6, 2016 8:43 AM CST
|Wow, those statues are just downright bizarre, yet very cool (and impressive in size). I've never heard of that place, if I ever get to Italy, that garden would figure high on my itinerary list. Thanks for sharing.
Nothing that's been done can ever be changed.
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