The small town of Bomarzo, located in the province of Viterbo in the northern part of the Lazio region, hosts a unique site whose official names include “The Villa of Marvels” and “The Sacred Woods”, but it is more commonly referred to as “The Park of the Monsters”. This peculiar nickname stems from the large, unusual sculptures and statues made of peperino, local volcanic tuff, that can be found throughout the park.
The construction of the park began in the year 1552 when it was commissioned by Prince Pier Francesco Orsini to honor his wife, Giulia Farnese. Orsini, also nicknamed Vicino, was so devastated by the passing of his wife that he planned the park as a way to express his grief. He instructed master architect Pirro Ligorio to create monsters and mythological beasts, which would be the focal point of the park. Orsini’s vision was a park with no comparable equivalent in the world that would both shock and astonish its visitors. In fact, the park does not exemplify the elegance and symmetry of the Renaissance gardens that were prevalent when it was constructed. Rather, the park follows the disordered Mannerist style featuring enigmatic symbolism, which is best observed in its monstrous sculptures.
The most curious sculptures found in the 7 acre park include a pegasus fountain, one of Hannibal’s elephants crushing a Roman soldier, a giant turtle with a woman on its back, a giant tearing apart another giant, and a huge sculpture of Neptune. In addition to the statues, the park also contains other monuments, such as a tilted house, and numerous conifers and broad-leaved trees. The symbol of the Bomarzo Monster Park is a sculpture of the head of ogre with a huge gaping mouth accompanied by an inscription that reads “all reason departs”. In fact, most of the sculptures and statues found within the park are accompanied by inscriptions, however these are not meant to provide clarity regarding the purpose of the structures, but rather to cause more confusion.
Upon the death of Pier Francesco Orsini, care for the park declined and it fell into a state of ruin for about 300 years. Despite this, the park still attracted curious minds such as surrealist Salvador Dalí who made a short film on the grounds of the park and would draw inspiration for later paintings from the park’s statues. The attention of Dalí and other artists led to renewed interest in the park and it was eventually restored during the 1950s.
Today Bomarzo Monster Park, located near Rome, is considered to be one of the most unique parks in Italy. The natural beauty of the park is well-kept and its extraordinary statues and sculptures are as inspiring as they are astounding. Filled with alluring mystery, Bomarzo Monster Park is ready to be explored by those eager to uncover its secrets.