Getting to the Sacro Bosco of Bomarzo has been a long way: hours spent in my little car, descending the Italian peninsula, wondering if I could arrive before the closing time. I really wanted to start my three days of holiday in Tuscia with this awkward place. Actually, the trip began much earlier. You can read about the Vicino Orsini’s unique creation in almost any garden history book. And any time I did, I couldn’t figure out the feeling I would have experienced visiting it. Would I have been overwhelmed by the extravagant sculptures? Would I have been disappointed by the maintenance status of the park? Sure enough, I knew I would have had to cope with my dangerous expectations.
This corner of Italy has been a complete surprise to me. The landscape is soaked in primitive beauty, stately oaks accompany your driving through streets getting more and more battered and narrow. The directions to the Sacro Bosco lead me to an anonymous parking paved in white gravel, similar to any other. I can’t tell how anxious I was.
My ideal garden mate Georgina Masson wisely suggests to visit it at moonlight, or when a curious fog mantles the valley while the sun lights up the hills top, because daylight, nowadays sparse forest and the map you receive at the ticket office hardly will set you in the mood for discovering any magic.
Well, I think I would have not succeeded, if I were less tired. Yes, indeed. I began feeling its atmosphere once I finished running compulsively from one sculpture to the following, once a gentle wind began to sweep dry leaves, when I sat next to the Orsini’s family emblem, relishing the warmth of the evening sun, looking up to the Temple. At last, I didn’t need to know anything but the fact that – oh my goodness! – I was really there.
The Sacro Bosco of Bomarzo is a Mannerist park built by the Duke Vicino Orsini in the second half of the Sixteenth Century on the side of a hill near his castle. Unlike the near, almost contemporary gardens of Villa d’Este, Villa Farnese at Caprarola, Villa Lante at Bagnaia, the slope is not designed by symmetrical terraces, sculptures are not meant to show rhythm, richness, vegetation is not topiated, water is not meant to emphasize the Family’s grandeur. The various elements of the park have have been designed in loco, sculpting the emerging rocks according to the personal, cultivated taste of the owner probably according to a plan suggested by Michelangelo or by the architect Pirro Ligorio.
Parco dei Mostri, località Giardino, Bomarzo (VT), Italy
Open daily from 8:30 to 19 (to the sunset from November to march)