“You who have traveled the world wishing to see great stupendous marvels, come here, where there are horrendous faces, elephants, lions, bears, orcs and dragons.”
Parco dei Mostri, located in the city of Bomarzo just outside of Rome, is full of beauty and mystery. The magical garden was constructed by Pirro Ligorio who is known for finishing St. Peter’s Cathedral after Michelangelo’s death as well as the construction of the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, which is a UNESCO world heritage site.
The park was commissioned by Prince Pier Francesco Orsini in the 16th century after his wife Giulia Farnese passed away. At first glance, one may think that maybe he hated his wife if he created a sculpture garden of monsters, but on the contrary he made the garden to express how he felt: peaceful like the garden but also tortured like the monsters. The man had a broken heart.
This half-day trip from Rome is like taking a step into another world. To add to its allure, for years the garden was unkempt until 1954 when Giovanni Bettini and his wife Tina Severi (both art lovers) bought it and brought it back to its former glory.
When you arrive at the entrance to the gardens of Bomarzo you will buy your ticket and get a map. Fair warning: the map is out of proportion. While exploring, keep this in mind because you may stray far from each monument and have to backtrack to make sure you’re reading about and looking at the correct sculpture. On the back of the map they have a poorly translated description of each monument but it adds to the charm and authenticity of the park.
Above is the L’Orco, the most well known sculpture from Parco dei Mostri. The inscription around the mouth reads “ogni pensiero vola” meaning “every thought flies.” This is because when you speak inside–even in a whisper–it is amplified and everyone outside can hear you. The table inside is meant to look like a tongue so when people congregate inside and talk around the table every thought “flies”.
The leaning house was built on a large boulder, which explains its peculiar slant. When you walk inside you feel completely off balance. Interestingly, the inside is slanted in the opposite direction of the facade.
Above is the “fight between giants” called Colossus. This is meant to represent the struggle between good and evil and alludes to the mythological story of Hercules (good) and Cacus (evil) in which Hercules killed Cacus with his bare hands.
Beyond the 24 distinct stops on the map, the garden is a natural sanctuary just a few steps outside of the bustling city of Rome. Explore the place that attracted artists like Salvador Dali and get inspired!
Parco dei Mostri, Località Giardino, 01020 Bomarzo VT
Hours: 8:00AM-Sunset daily
Tickets: €10 for adults, €8 for children 4-13
Take the train from Roma Termini to Attigliano-Bomarzo. It takes a little under an hour. The best way to get to the park is by car otherwise it’s an extremely long walk from the station to the park entrance. I went into the cafe attached to the train station and asked how to get to Parco dei Mostri. The man behind the counter gave me the cell phone number of someone who appeared to be his friend who gives rides on the side. The man ended up driving three of us to and from the park for 20 Euros total. There isn’t a taxi stand so either be prepared to walk 7.2km, around an hour and a half (not suggested because you’d have to walk along the highway), ask in the cafe about a ride/taxi service, or book a car in advance.
My name is Rachel Honigman and I am a junior communication major at Cornell University. I am studying abroad at John Cabot University in Rome for the spring semester. I enjoy good food with even better wine, fashion, music and modern art.