Monstrous Scuplture Garden In Italy
August 13, 2007 8:46 PM   Subscribe

In the town of Bomarzo in central Italy you will find Monster's Grove, a vast sculpture garden created in 1552 by Pier Orisini to be a unique & astonishing place. The scupltures are quite large, and some are carved directly into the bedrock; as the name might indicate, the subjects are mainly mythical creatures. For centuries, the stone was uncared for, and nature began to reclaim the art, until the 1970s when efforts began to preserve the pieces, and today it is a major tourist attraction, though still privately owned nearly five centuries in.
posted by jonson (20 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome. This is the kind of random stuff that makes the world worth living in. I'd love some more background on the preservation efforts and history of the place, if you (or others) have any.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:56 PM on August 13, 2007

Great post jonson! Have you been to Bomarzo?
posted by rockhopper at 8:59 PM on August 13, 2007

I wish, but no rockhopper, Italy's still on my list of places to visit someday.
posted by jonson at 9:00 PM on August 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Whoa. I gotta go there.
posted by rtha at 9:02 PM on August 13, 2007

Ah, jonson, jonson, jonson, yet another exceptionally beautiful post! Wow. What treasures you unearth!

Know Tuscany well, it's so beautiful and now I have a place I've never been to there and can look forward seeing. About Bomarzo on Wikipedia. It's only 68 kilometers from Rome.

Niki de Saint Phalle was inspired by Bomarzo for her Tarot Garden.

The story behind Bomarzo and the life of Pier Francesco Orsini are the subject of a fascinating novel by the Argentinian writer Manuel Mujica Láinez (1910-1984).
posted by nickyskye at 10:12 PM on August 13, 2007

Wonderful post, jonson. Thanks.
posted by homunculus at 10:40 PM on August 13, 2007

Ah, Italy. Gorgeous land of antiquity: villages, towns and cities of breathtaking beauty, warm and charming people, fabulous food and wine, and now this, a garden of fanciful monsters carved into the stone almost 500 years ago by some eccentric duke. What a country. And thanks for introducing me to this, jonson.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:04 PM on August 13, 2007

Couldn't help but noticing that the first two comments in this post about rock carving are from Rock Steady and rockhopper. Y'all just always on the lookout for rock posts? :)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:28 PM on August 13, 2007

This would be the perfect place for a live action Legend of Zelda movie.
posted by stavrogin at 12:23 AM on August 14, 2007

Whoa. I wonder if the stuff in Pan's Labyrinth was based on this
posted by pantsrobot at 12:31 AM on August 14, 2007

What treasures you unearth!

yeah, I was impressed that MetaFilter's own Postroad, between MeFi post deletions, and especially among the all that stolen porn in his blog, took the time to blog about Bomarzo the other day (link sfw, the blog itself totally isn't, be careful) -- it's not as cool as the Villa dei Mostri in Bagheria, but it's pretty impressive, in a cartoonish, scary, boo! sort of way. I'm pretty positive somebody posted about Bagheria in the past on MeFi, that's really something -- but the problem is it's out of most visitors routes because it's in Sicily. Bomarzo on the other hand is about, what, 50 miles from Rome? It's less than an hour drive if you visit.
posted by matteo at 12:40 AM on August 14, 2007

This is exactly the sort of thing that made me love MeFi so very long ago... thank you, jonson, for restoring my [dwindling] faith in the goodness of the blue.

It seems there are more and more reasons for me to get to Italy all the time. I wonder if this kind of weirdness could ever be preserved for 500 years if it was made now. There's just something so impermanent about the world these days.
posted by phylum sinter at 12:50 AM on August 14, 2007

Cool. I remember, as a kid seeing two of these sculptures in my parents' Whole Earth Catalog, in the section on weird hippy houses and printed without any context (that I could understand at that age, anyway) so I'd always thought these were actual crazy houses somewhere.
Now I know. I'll try and get there some day.
posted by Flashman at 1:07 AM on August 14, 2007

Wow--that's awesome. I've added it to my list of places to go some day.

Hungry for more photos, I found some at this webpage, whose author offers the following practical note:
[T]he park is about 90 minutes north of Rome, near the town of Bomarzo, which has almost nothing to recommend it. I advise that you bring a picnic from Rome because I remember a particularly bad and expensive restaurant in Bomarzo. I also vividly remember being chased around the park by an old caretaker, upset that I was using a tripod. The Cadogan guide notes that the privately-owned park is run like an "Alabama roadside attraction, complete with tame deer for your children to pet, an albino peacock, miniature goats, and plenty of souvenirs. ... It may be the only important monument of the 16th century that neither the goverment nor anyone else is interested in preserving."
posted by yankeefog at 1:43 AM on August 14, 2007

I've been to Bomarzo numerous times as it is near a relatives' house. It's definitely wonderful and kind of reminds me of both Sendak and Gorey at the same time. Great place to visit if you are also planning to visit Orvieto, which is nearby and is famous for their gothic church and their white wine.
posted by gen at 2:25 AM on August 14, 2007

Ha. When I saw this post, I thought it was my dad making it. He'd just found all the Bomzaro websites, and we went there in 2001.

I have my doubts about the historical nature of their claims— quite a bit seemed to be made out of molded concrete, rather than actually carved. We just figured it was Italy's version of Prarie Dog Town.
posted by klangklangston at 9:37 AM on August 14, 2007

klangklangston - son, is that you???
posted by jonson at 10:00 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Actually, my real dad is on metafilter.
posted by klangklangston at 11:24 AM on August 14, 2007

And with a lower user number, no less. Outcooled by your pops!
posted by jonson at 11:41 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Man, what a blast from the past! I went there as a small child, and I remember being scared and impressed at the same time. I knew that this garden is in Italy, but as young as I was when I went there, I didn't know where its specific location is. My father passed over a decade ago, and sadly, I never asked him about it before he died. So glad to finally know. Thank you so much for this post, despite the somewhat gruesome images, it brings back some awfully nice memories.
posted by msali at 12:52 PM on August 14, 2007

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