With Halloween upon us, what could be more appropriate than a post about a monster park? A monster park that happens to be more than 500 years old (just to add to the creepiness).
The Sacro Bosco, also named the Garden of Bomarzo as well as the Park of Monsters is located 40 miles north of Rome in a wooded park in the town of Bomarzo.
This eccentric park with its bizarre stone sculptures was commissioned by Pier Francesco Orsini and designed by Pirro Ligorio who was a well-known architect and garden designer. He worked on many Vatican projects as well as the fountains at Villa d’Este near Rome. The supposed inspiration for this park was Orsini’s wife. Some say it was created as a celebration for their love (umm….ok) and others say it was created in a way to express his grief after she died. If I were his wife, I would probably prefer the latter. After Orsini died, the park was largely forgotten for about 400 years. Four hundred years! What a crazy number. Anyway, the park came into ownership of the Bettini family in the1800s. During the 1950s, Giovanni Bettini and his wife Tina restored the park and opened it to the public. Cool people like Salvador Dali’ have visited this garden. Seems a fitting place for Mr. Surrealism himself.
And this place is surreal to say the least. Imagine walking along a wooded path only to come across a huge fish head made of stone. What other sculptures can be found? A dragon, two fighting giants, some kind of big scary, screaming mouth that you can stand inside of and a lopsided house to name a few. Let me take you along a guided visit.
Upon entering, you will be greeted with a sculpture of Proteus and Glaucus. These guys are both water deities in Greek mythology and here they are represented by a big, angry fish head.
Moving along you will find more mythological creatures. This time Hercules and Cacus in a fight…it appears that Hercules is winning the battle. (In Roman mythology, Cacus was actually killed by Hercules)
Continuing our walk we find a very imposing turtle and directly after our tortoise shelled friend, the winged Pegasus.
Along the path, there are other smaller statues and structures that lead up to a crooked house. It looks funky from the outside, but when you enter, you will truly lose your balance. I actually started getting sick to my stomach. Oddly enough, this was my favorite attraction. Feeling your body physically respond to a building just because of an optical illusion? Very powerful!
Once your stomach settles, keep on walking and you will find the superstar of this park. A huge ogre face that does not look too happy. He appears to be screaming and above his mouth is written, “Abandon all thought, ye who enter here.” The opening of his mouth is so big, you can walk inside. There is a table and chairs in there too. Picnic anyone?
After your picnic lunch inside the ogre’s mouth, there are dragons, an elephant eating a Roman soldier, Poseidon, a statue of Echidna doing the splits and various other creatures.
There are a variety of other buildings, fountains and sculptures to see around the park, and if you want to make sure you don’t miss anything, be sure to pick up a map at the entrance.
Hours: Monday thru Sunday from 9am to 5pm
Cost: 11 euro for 13 and older, 8 euro for ages 4-12, free for children up to 3 years.
How to get there: As you can see from this map, if you are traveling by car and heading north to visit Orvieto, Florence, etc…it is right off the highway. So when planning your trip to Italy, if you heading to one of those locations, this could be a fun detour. If you are just staying in Rome, this place makes for a unique day trip.
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Proteus and Glaucus by Mad Maenad
Ogre by Andrea Marutti
Pegasus by Marcos Méndez Filesi