The surroundings of Rome: a monstrous excursion to Bomarzo gardens
If after visiting Rome, with its churches with remarkable artistic heritage and its archaeological ruins, memory of the glory of the city, you need to relax in a completely different environment, bucolic and magical at the same time, then reach the fantastic Monster Park di Bomarzo, which will make young and old happy.
The garden is located a stone's throw from the beautiful Viterbo, just over 100 km from the capital: the city is however worth a visit in particular for the Palazzo dei Papi with the splendid Loggia delle Benedizioni and the San Pellegrino district, where everything has remained as it appeared in the Middle Ages between bridge houses and “profferli” (steps typical of Viterbo’s area, medieval tradition).
The inspiration of Vinicio Orsini
Only by going to Bomarzo Gardens you can experience the amazement, the suggestion and the awe that you feel in front of this lush area that hides, among the dense vegetation, fantastic, mythological and often frightening statues. The idea of creating such an original park between 1552 and 1558 came to Vinicio Orsini who probably found inspiration from the customs of the ancient peoples who lived in the area of Bomarzo: often, in fact, piperine boulders that accidentally fell from the cliffs were turned into altars, in tombs or temples, thus relegating them to immortality.
Probably driven by this idea of eternity, Vinicio Orsini had his home built on the top of the cliff, now the seat of the Municipality, connecting it to a park where large rocks lay helpless: Vinicio entrusted Pirro Ligorio, a pupil of the famous Michelangelo Buonarroti, with the task of give life to these stones, creating an eclectic garden to dedicate to his late wife. Vinicio Orsini's death also marked the decline of the park, until the gardens themselves passed into the hands of the Bettini who recovered the park, restoring it and giving back light to a work that received many consents over the years, starting with Salvador Dalí who apparently found inspiration in the Bomarzo Park to create his visionary painting "The temptations of Saint Anthony".
The tour in the Bomarzo Park begins
Going to discover the Bomarzo Monster Park you will be struck by a sort of orderly chaos: no geometric rules are followed and there are no long avenues flanked by flower beds and fountains. The park will present you as a real initiatory path that will only stimulate your imagination and your wit, among tall sculptures in piperine, strange buildings that seem to defy gravity and riddles, both stimulating and disorienting.
The garden develops on terraces dominated from above by the “Tempietto” (little temple) dedicated to Vinicio Orsini's wife, Giulia Farnese, who seems to be buried right inside: near the temple there is the Cerbero, the three-headed dog carved in the rock, almost to want to watch over the eternal rest of the Farnese.
The Sphinxes will welcome you, being the first thing you will encounter in the Bomarzo Park, passing a shady path: on a sphinx you can read a warning, which invites visitors to give their personal meaning to the sculptures in the park, going beyond appearances. Overcoming the threatening face in stone of Glaucus which, with its jaws open, represents that fisherman transformed into a marine deity after ingesting the magical herb, you will find yourself in front of the sculptural complex of Hercules and Cacus: you will understand the torture of the son of the God of Vulcan while succumbing to the fury of Hercules.
On the way to the Leaning House
Enjoy the wonderful green landscape until you see, among the shady branches of the trees, the Turtle on whose back a woman seems to stand in precarious balance: follow the gaze of the tortoise and you will discover, in a nearby stream, a whale emerging from the waters with a threatening expression.
Next sculptural work is a curious fountain without water, in the center of which you can see the Winged Pegasus: it will seem that the mythological steed has just finished climbing a mound of stones, placed in such a way as to seem almost an altar, ready to fly in the sky above Bomarzo.
Among the most fascinating places in the Park of the Monsters there is certainly the Nymphaeum with the carved Three Graces, a symbol of beauty, embraced together but only one looks you in the eye. A little further away, next to a disturbing Mascherone, there is the elegant statue of Venus standing on a shell, dressed as a Roman noblewoman.
After passing the theater, where life in all its aspects is the subject of tragedies and comedies, you reach one of the most enigmatic constructions of the Bomarzo Park: it is the Leaning House, in front of which you will have a moment of disbandment since this small house for two floors is completely crooked. Scout it inside, overcoming the dizziness and the precarious balance that will catch you, but above all reflect on the message that Vinicio Orsini wanted to convey with its construction: the collapse of all the moral and social certainties acquired during the earthly life inside a path that leads to truth.
Final destination: the symbolic Mascherone
Your discovery in the Bomarzo Monster Park must continue in search of other works that float between the real and dreamlike world: observe, near the blissfully asleep Nymph, Neptune, leaning against a wall with an almost exhausted air, perhaps due to fatigue to have caught a dolphin that is right in his hand.
The tour in the gardens continues with the discovery of the Winged Dragon, while fighting with what looks like a dog and a lion, and of the Elephant: do not be distracted by the tower that the pachyderm carries on its back and instead observe its proboscis crushing the body of a Roman soldier.
And here you are in the presence of the symbol of the park, the frightening Orc: in reality it is a large mask with its jaws wide and dark, so much so as to be seen as the Portal of the Underworld. In fact, beyond the mouth of the ogre there is a simple room carved into the tuff stone known for its rather particular acoustics: try to enter and you will notice that all the sounds you will emit will leave the cave monstrously distorted. Read the umpteenth message, in this case carved on the lips of the Ogre, that Orsini wanted to send to the visitor who immerses himself in the fantastic world of the Bomarzo Park: these words invite you to abandon your instinct in spite of the mind.
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