Famous and interesting location an hour north of Rome, Bomarzo is set in the countryside of Tuscia. From the fortress of the town, where one can admire the imposing Palazzo Orsini, it seems incredible that hidden in the woods there is a park full of wonders.
Tuscia is full of amazing gardens such as Villa Lante in Bagnaia and Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola, but what distinguishes the park of Bomarzo from the others is its grotesque air that it is not centered "simply" on play of water, fountains and topiary gardens, but on huge statues representing giants, tritons, monsters and mythological creatures of every kind. Avenues, ladders and passageways lead from one open space to another, and turning every curve or climbing stairs one can find sphinxes, dolphins, turtles, winged horses, elephants, lions and dragons. One wonders why so much effort just to erect monstrous and grotesque creatures, a real amusement park of the old times, with secret passages, caves and houses built deliberately crocked that would even make an acrobat dizzy.
The Prince Pier Francesco Orsini, nicknamed Vicino, commissioned this park to the architect Pirro Lingorio in 1548. Some say that it was built in memory of his wife Giulia Farnese, who died prematurely and thus the phrase: "sol pel sfogare il core" (just to relieve the heart) broken by the tragic death of his beloved. Actually, Giulia died between 1557 and 1558, when the park was already completed (Vicino dedicated the park to his wife in 1552). On a happier note, one might think that the park acted as a background to their love and the famous phrase meant to give free rein to the heart ... to love. Vicino, being a military general, was often away on campaigns and it's nice to think that he left a place where his wife could take refuge during his absence. What is certain, is that this place must have been perfect for romantic encounters, given the countless niches and secluded corners.
The park is still today incredibly romantic and very fun for both children and adults of all ages. When I was little, we often used to go and I loved my trips to Bomarzo. I remember going with a dear childhood friend, who still is like a brother to me today. We had great fun playing hide and seek or pretending we were being eaten by monsters! It's been over twenty years since the last time I went and I confess that I was a bit scared to go back as an adult, because as often happens, we remember the places of our childhood in a different way, and I was afraid of being disappointed.
But, no! This place is even more spectacular and magical as an adult, since you can fully appreciate the fun and playful spirit of this great prince and leader. The park is refreshing to the soul, mind and body. It's one of those places where you can imagine that fairies and wood elves come out to play at night, and if by chance you happen to see one, you wouldn’t be so surprised, since you can easily find Ogres and the Sleeping Beauty in the park!