"Bomarzo: Park of the Monsters" Bomarzo by BarbieGirl

Bomarzo Travel Guide: 42 reviews and 83 photos

Bomarzo is a town and comune of Viterbo province (Lazio, central Italy), in the lower valley of the Tiber. It is located at 15 kilometers from Viterbo and 68 from Rome.Its current name is supposed to come from the Roman-era Polymartium of uncertain meaning. It was a historical fief of the Orsini family, whose castle is at the edge of the densely-built town, until Marzio sold it to the Lante family in 1645.claim to fame is a garden usually referred to as the Bosco Sacro (Sacred grove) or, locally, Bosco dei Mostri ("Monsters' Grove"), named for the many larger-than-life sculptures, some sculpted in the bedrock, which populate this predominantly barren landscape.


A sphinx at the entrance of the Park of the Monsters.It is the work of Pier Francesco Orsini, called Vicino (1528–1588), a patron of the arts and greatly devoted to his wife Giulia Farnese; when she died, he created the gardens. The design that has been attributed to Pirro Ligorio, a well known architect of the time.

The park of Bomarzo was intended not to please, but to astonish, and like many Mannerist works of art, its symbolism is arcane: examples are a large sculpture of one of Hannibal's war elephants, which mangles a Roman legionary, or the statue of Ceres lounging on the bare ground, with a vase of verdure perched on her head.

The many monstrous statues appear to be unconnected to any rational plan and appear to have been strewn almost randomly about the area, sol per sfogare il Core ("just to set the heart free") as one inscription in the obelisks says.

The reason for the layout and design of the garden is largely unknown: perhaps they were meant as a foil to the perfect symmetry and layout of the great Renaissance gardens nearby at Villa Farnese and Villa Lante. Next to a formal exedra is a tilting watchtowerlike casina, the so-called Casa Storta ("Hanging House").

An octagonal templet was added about twenty years later to honor the second wife of Orsini, Giulia Farnese.

During the nineteenth century and deep into the twentieth the garden became overgrown and neglected, but in the 1970s a program of restoration was implemented by the Bettini family, and today the garden, which remains private property, is a major tourist attraction.

  • Intro Updated Sep 19, 2006
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