Villa of Wonders

On my recent trip to Italy I discovered an enchanting garden about an hour outside of Rome, the Park of Monsters of Bomarzo or it is also known as the Villa of the Wonders or Sacred Forest. No matter the name it is an untouched fantasy land where adults and children alike can play in a world of sleeping beauties, giants, ogres, tilted homes, sphinxes and more.

The park was created in 1552 as the “Villa of Wonders”, and is the only one of it’s kind in the world. Prince Pier Francesco Orsini (1523-1585), called Vicino, is the creative mind behind this bewitching garden. At the time he was madly in love and inspired by that love he created this tremendous park. Twenty years later his wife passed away and he dedicated the Temple to her.

Sadly once he passed away there were no heirs to claim it and keep it alive. So it sat alone, growing moss and weeds over the sculptures until 1954 when the Bettini family purchased the property and took over the loving care of the Villa of Wonders. Thankfully for this family we can now enjoy this beautiful place today.

Moving through the gardens you discover 24 pieces of art ranging from Greek mythology to fantasy. When I was there I felt as if it was a combination of Disneyland and Alice in wonderland. This sacred forest invites the imagination to run wild, and where nothing is as it seems.

It is so exciting and unexpected to see what comes next in the garden. Each sculpture is more detailed than the next. I felt like I could have wandered in the park for days and still found it enticing. There is a dragon sculpture and his expression is so detailed, cartoon like, and real. The Ogre is also an intriguing piece of art in the garden. Ogre, is another name for Orcus, one of the names of the king of the underworld. This sculpture symbolizes the entrance to the underworld, and on the lip of the Ogre above the entrance are Dante’s words engraved ‘every thought flies away’. Inside of the Ogre’s mouth you find a stone table and bench, and although it is the entrance to the underworld inside the mouth feels like a tavern.

While trying to respect the art, and allow my playful self to come out I enjoyed handstands and headstands in front of some of the sculptures and on some others. Posing like a sphinx or making the same expressions as the elephants. It was a wonderful grounding and childlike experience.

If you are in Italy and near Rome I highly recommend a visit to the Park of Monsters. Or if you are not nearing there anytime soon find a park or a sculpture garden near you and take a day to enjoy a picnic there, bring a journal, and maybe a camera. Enjoy the pleasure of walking and stumbling on a beautiful piece of art. Being in nature can be extremely grounding and allowing the freedom of the day, the fluidity of no schedule, simply enjoy the art and frolic in the grass, take a nap under a tree, and reflect on your time in your journal.