After Milan and Lake Maggiore, our tour of Italy’s most beautiful gardens makes a stop today at the Sacred Grove of Bomarzo, north of Rome. It’s a trip that will surprise you; at the very least you’ll learn that not all monsters are scary.
Monsters? What do you mean monsters?
You should know that what characterises this 16th-century garden - commissioned by Prince Vicino Orsini* as a place of recreation – are the monstrous stone figures scattered here and there. They peep out behind a tree, or among the bushes, or along an avenue with the gravel crackling underfoot. An eccentric grove, an incomparable and unforgettable place.
[when it comes to the word crackling, I really need a newsletter with some acoustics in addition to a scented one in the sense that the sound of footsteps on gravel is something I find particularly relaxing – it’s a pity I can’t let you hear it... I’ll have to conjure up some digital contraption!]
But let’s get back to what we were doing, to Bomarzo and its monsters. The end result is truly surprising and even a little unsettling: although it’s known as The Park of Monsters, coming across these bizarre creatures, carved in the local volcanic stone, is a very unusual experience.
And so, you too will find yourself slack-jawed, like the giant head on our cover above. Wild dragons, fantastical elephants, gigantic tortoises, ogres, bat-winged nymphs, exotic and enigmatic animals, mythological subjects... Everything is covered in climbing plants and moss, reminding us that nature follows its course and does not fear these fantastic figures.
That’s right, because here the vegetation truly rules supreme – after all, we’re in the woods! Apple and pear trees, elder and fig trees, willows, medlars, and walnut trees: trees alternate with hawthorn and laurel bushes, and then there’s ivy, euphorbias, cyclamen, ferns, clover and masses of other species... Lush vegetation all year round, regardless of the season.
But speaking of clover: I reckon I’ll stop here for a bit and look for the odd-shaped one – I mean a four-leaf clover**... this shattered world of ours could use a stroke of good luck, that’s for sure.
*a member of one of Rome's most important noble families, Pier Francesco, also known as Vicino, was an odd, disenchanted character, attracted by the world of magic and alchemy.
**in Western culture, finding the odd-shaped clover (with four leaves instead of three) is a good omen. But perhaps you already knew that...