Explore Parco Dei Mostri, Italy
Explore Parco Dei Mostri, Italy
We’ve all heard the saying, “Getting there is half the fun”. But where exactly is “there”? Our Explore series tells you where to go, how to get there, and what to do when you arrive. Happy travelling!
Parco Dei Mostri or The Park of Monsters, Italy
Just when you think that you know Italy like the back of your hand, with images of all the exquisite Renaissance sculptures committed to your memory, the country springs a surprise on you!
A short drive away from Rome, the cultural capital of the world, lies a 16th century park populated with the bizarre and the absurd. The saying, “seek and you shall find” couldn’t be more apt for this enchanted wonderland. Only those travellers who truly wish to tread the unexpected path will chance upon the Parco dei Mostri or the Park of Monsters in the Garden of Bomarzo.
What To See
A Different Side Of The Renaissance Art
Unlike the picture-perfect symmetry of Italy’s Renaissance gardens, with their elegant fountains and wide terraces, this one steered clear of the principles of harmony cherished by sculptors like Michelangelo. It veered towards the asymmetrical and roughly inelegant.
According to Atlas Obscura, a guide to all places curious and wondrous, the Parco dei Mostri was intended as a shocking “Villa of Wonders” by Prince Pier Francesco Orsini, who came home after a brutal war only to find his beloved wife dying. In 1552, he commissioned architect Pirro Ligorio to create this unusual expression of grief. Orsini’s vision resulted in eccentric creations, such as blocks of peperino emerging from the ground and finishing in figures of monsters, dragons, obelisks, and more.
Picnic Inside A Giant, Anyone?
You get a glimpse of the fantastically weird sculptures to follow right at the entrance. Waiting for you is a giant’s mouth, wide open as if on the verge of a scream, with a picnic table perched on its tongue. Now, that’s an experience to boast of to your friends later!
An Otherworldly Experience
There are nearly 25 such sculptures, most carved into the bedrock. Ligorio brought to life monsters from myths and legends, combining them with his architectural sensibilities. So, you have a leaning house and bizarre ornaments. And giving them company are representations of Proteus, the son of Neptune, an ogre, a three-headed dog, a gigantic fish-head, Hannibal’s war elephant and Aphrodite (Goddess of love) like you have never seen her before.
Most of these are so huge that they loom over you, adding to the fearsome aura around them. That, combined with the vines, creepers and thick undergrowth that have become intertwined with the sculptures, gives a surreal otherworldly look to the place. After nearly 400 years of neglect, the park was restored to some of its former glory after real-estate agent Giovanni Bettini bought it in 1951. However, it is in its wild form that the park has inspired many artists, such as Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau, with novels, operas and paintings being based on it.
How To Get There
The Parco dei Mostri is located 60 miles from Rome, but is best reached by the picturesque medieval town of Viterbo. You can take a car or bus from Viterbo, located 20 kilometres from the park, and cruise along the highway, thereafter take the exit towards Bomarzo.
Best Time To Visit
Spring-summer is the best season to visit the park as the space comes alive with blooms, full-blown oaks and chestnuts. This season adds a certain charm to the eccentricities around.