Are you in Rome for a couple of days and looking to go on a day trip to somewhere unusual? Then here is a great piece of advice: Park of the Monsters in Bomarzo. The name itself sounds so intriguing, right?
Lately I have the impression that more and more travellers are expressing a certain disdain for places that are too “touristy,” meaning crowded with tourists. Many of us in fact, are starting to prefer the more off-the-beaten-track destinations. If this is the case for you, then the Park of the Monsters in Bomarzo is really the right destination for you.
What is Bomarzo’s Monster Park?
The Sacro Bosco (Sacred Wood), widely called by Italians Parco dei Mostri (Park of the Monsters), is a monumental complex located in Bomarzo, in the province of Viterbo, in northern Lazio, Italy.
It is filled with grotesque sculptures, mythological animals, huge stone monsters, and small buildings located among the natural vegetation: Garden of Bomarzo. The Monsters Park in the garden of Bomarzo was not meant to be pretty and attractive. Situated beneath the castle of Orsini, it was commissioned by Prince Pier Francesco Orsini, also known as Vicino, as an expression of grief in order to shock the viewer. However, I’d say it isn’t as scary as it sounds.
Park of the Monsters History.
The origins of this curious park date back to the 16th-century when Architect Pirro Logorio was commissioned by Prince Pier Francesco Orsini to design the park. The sculptures are all attributed to Simone Moschino. Instead of the tidy hedges, wide terraces, and pretty fountains typical of Renaissance gardens, the Garden of Bomarzo avoided the usual concept of the historical period.
The prince planned everything in the span of 25 years. From 1560 to 1585 many gigantic stone monster sculptures were scattered in 3 hectares of wood, apparently without a rational location, perspective relationship, or coherence of dimensions.
After his death in 1585, since the park did not correspond to the art of its time, it was left abandoned by his heirs for over 300 years and during the 19th and the 20th century, it was totally neglected and left to ruin.
But luckily the Monsters Park was known among the men of art and letters such as Goethe, Lorrin, and Jean Cocteau who understood that Orsini was a man ahead of his time. They came to visit it eager to find its meaning. It was when the Spanish painter Salvador Dalí discovered it in 1938 and made a short movie about the park and completed a painting actually based on it in the 1950s, that it became famous and in 1954 the Bettini family decided to buy it. The restoration program lasted throughout the 1970s, and today the garden, which remains a private property, is one of the major tourist attractions in the area of Lazio.
What prompted Prince Orsini to construct the Park of the Monsters?
Over the years, many academics, artists, and intellectuals have wondered about the real intentions of Prince Orsini on creating the Park of the Monsters. There have been many studies to find if there are any hidden meanings scattered across the park, but to date it seems that there is no way to understand his real intentions about the park or what really inspired him to create such a surreal place.
Since no writings by Price Orsini, Architect Pirro, or Sculptor Moschino were found about why the Park of the Monsters was created, there are obviously many theories on what inspired Price Orsini to conceive art so out of its time filled with bizarre creatures.
Each visitor gave his own interpretation. For some it is just an inspiration from works written by Giulio Camillo, known as Delminio. For some others it is an intention to create some kind of initiation journey that gives refuge.
Beyond whichever reasons he actually had, the truth is that the whole complex is a great celebration of love addressed to his wife Giulia Farnese who died prematurely in 1524, after only 10 years of marriage. In fact, the Temple of Eternity, located over a small hill, built 20 years later than the park was begun, is devoted to her. And the fact that Prince Pier Francesco Orsini used to call the park “The Sacred Wood,” might really make us think that this was a way to get over his melancholy for the death of his beloved wife.
How to get to Bomarzo
ADDRESS Madonna Della Valle 11. Località Giardino, 01020 Bomarzo VT, Italy
Located about an hour and a half from the Italian capitol, the Park of the Monsters in Bomarzo in the Province of Viterbo would make a brilliant day trip from Rome for anyone who is looking for off the beaten path activities near Rome or something unusual to do in the area of Lazio.
Train: Getting to the Park of the Monsters in Bomarzo by public transportation is pretty uncomfortable, but it’s doable though. Trains from Roma Termini to Attigliano-Bomarzo station take around 55 minutes. Trains from Rome also reach nearby Orte and Viterbo, with Cotral buses to Bomarzo operating from both towns. Once the bus drops you in Bomarzo you then need to walk down the hill to the Bomarzo Monster Park about another twenty minutes.
Car: If you are driving yourself in Italy then it goes without saying that it is the easiest way to reach the Monsters Park in Bomarzo. It is located 93 km north of Rome via A1 / E35. The drive takes about an hour and a half.
Some Italian cities organize private bus tours to the Monsters Park in Bomarzo which you might want to consider in case you are travelling in Italy by public transportation.
How much time do you need at the Monsters Park in Bomarzo?
As far as I know there are no English tour guides at the Monster Park. Nor are there any signs along the itinerary to give any information, so it doesn’t take too much time. It might take a good two hours to walk around the whole park leisurely. But… if you are willing to queue to have your picture taken right next to the statues then consider it as a real half day tour. I mean you may end up spending 3 or 4 hours.
If you have decided to visit the Monsters Park in Bomarzo, then I’ll suggest that you take an hour or two more to visit the small hilltop town of Bomarzo. It is very cute and there are really many interesting things to do in Bomarzo town too.
Bomarzo Monster Park itinerary
· A fountain of Pegasus, the winged horse.
· Two sirens, probably Proserpina, wife of Pluto.
· Orcus, with its mouth wide open and on whose upper lip it is inscribed “All Thoughts Fly,” which is illustrated by the fact that the acoustics of the mouth are such that any whisper made inside is clearly heard by anyone standing at the base of the steps.
· A whale.
· Two bears.
· A dragon attacked by lions.
· Proteus with weapons of Orsini.
· Hannibal’s elephant catching a Roman legionary.
· A turtle with a winged woman on its back.
· A small theater of Nature
· A giant who brutally shreds a character.
· A sleeping nymph.
· The giant fruit, cones and basins
· The Leaning House: dedicated to Cardinal Madruzzo, who was a friend of Orsini and his wife.
· The Temple of Eternity: memorial to Giulia Farnese, located at the top of the garden, it is an octagonal building with a mixture of classical, Renaissance, and Etruscan genres. It currently houses the tombs of Giovanni Bettini and Tina Severi, the owners who restored the garden in the twentieth century.
Some useful tips for visiting the Monster Park in Bomarzo.
- The Park of the Monsters is not that scary as I already told you, but if you are travelling in Italy with children, then you should consider their sensitivity. I mean, make sure they will not be scared by some giant statues.
- Parking at the entrance of the Monsters Park in Bomarzo is huge and it is free and, even being off the typical tourist track, it is always full so you may find yourself waiting a bit or parking somewhere far away.
- Even though it’s not one of the usual tourist destinations in Italy, the queue to enter the park in Bomarzo is always long. Sometimes you need to wait an hour before reaching the ticket office.
- On some days the park might be closed for private events so always check before you set off towards Bomarzo.
- Admission fee to the Monsters Park in Bomarzo is € 13 for adults and € 8 for children. More ticket options can be found on their official website. Know that to date tickets can’t be purchased online.
- Pets are not allowed at the Monsters Park in Bomarzo but there are some cages at the entrance where you can lock them up. On the contrary, guide dogs for the blind are allowed.
- Bomarzo Monsters Park is open to visitors daily from 8.30 am to 7 pm. During the months that go from November to March it is closed at 5 pm.
- Smoking is not allowed in the park.
- Inside the park there is a restaurant owned by the Bettini family which is open to date only for lunch. Nevertheless, a plan to keep the restaurant open for dinner is on the way. There’s also a snack bar by the entrance if you just need a coffee or a quick bite.
- The Park of the Monsters in Bomarzo is not wheelchair accessible. They have ramps and everything for wheelchairs only until the entrance but after that some paths are pretty straight (unpaved) but many of them are up and down.
- As per your Monsters Park itinerary, you can use the map provided at the entrance upon purchasing the ticket. You just have to follow the path as suggested.
- Even though a small guidebook is provided by the entrance, I suggest you read and understand beforehand the history of this site to get the most out of your visit.
- Ogre’s mouth an “orcus” who is a god of the underworld in Roman mythology is the most famous sculpture of Bomarzo’s Park. It has a picnic table inside and enough seating for a small group to have lunch. But you will never go and sit because it always has an endless queue, so you only have time to go close to its mouth and take a picture. We did not queue. We only took the picture from far away.
- The leaning house, one of the 2 monuments at the Park of the Monsters, is very fun for children but the adults, if they stay longer than 2 or 3 minutes, begin to suffer from headache and nausea.
- There aren’t paved roads through the park so make sure you wear comfortable shoes and clothes.
- If you are road tripping in Italy, then the best way to fit this visit in is while driving from Rome to Florence or vice versa.
Heading to Florence? Then here’s a set of things you could do.
Is the Monsters Park worth visiting?
Well, if you ask me if visiting the Monster’s Park in Bomarzo is well worth it, my answer is yes. It is a unique realisation of one man’s imagination who probably in order to fight his suffering filled it with intriguing huge timeless sculptures of all sorts. This sixteenth century folly is somewhat fascinating. In some way, at the end of your visit this world of mythical creatures will deeply touch you.
Although I do believe that the price of the entrance ticket to the Park of the Monsters is a little expensive, (I guess maintenance doesn’t come cheap here) for me surely it is worth it.
On the other hand, I can also understand that when it comes to Italy the Park of the Monsters in Bomarzo could become a nice place to visit, but definitely not a “must see.” This is why I started this article by suggesting it for the off the beaten path lovers looking for something unusual to do in the area of Rome. There are so many things to do and to see in Italy and we never have enough time for everything. So, we just have to leave out something.
Read Also: Queueing at St. Peter’s Basilica
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While in Lazio with a very limited time available what would you choose between some historical places in the city and the Sacred Wood of Orsini? A relaxing walk in the woods with mythological creatures or a visit to a museum filled with art and history?
It is really up to you to decide. Figure out what type of traveller you are, to what you want to give priority, who you are travelling with, and your current situation.
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