Week 6: Monster Gardens & Caprarola

Scared yet? Well, you should be. It’s October: the time when ghouls, ghosts, and monsters come out to play while we dress like them and eat buckets of candy. I’m all for continuing this tradition, but I don’t mind deviating from the norm a bit while I’m abroad. I traded the spooky monsters for surreal monsters on a day excursion provided by UCEAP Rome.

We headed in our bus across the beautiful Italian countryside to the Monstri Park in Bomorzo, an extensive garden filled with statues intricately designed to mess with the viewer’s mind.

There’s a mermaid with a resemblance to the Starbucks logo, a cerberus (a three-headed dog from mythology), monsters battling, and many more twisted statue scenes to behold.

The question a statue of a sphinx asked at the entrance of the park is “is this art or is this madness?” Perhaps this is an allusion to the riddle of the sphinx, “What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening?” The park is filled with several of these fun allusions to mythology and monsters while being coy about why this was really created in the first place.

This park was dreamt up by the wealthy Orsini family that wanted a dream-like escape from their political tension with other members of the aristocracy. While having too much wealth is a bit gross to me, I am not as opposed to wealthy people that dream up surreal gardens instead of buying multiple luxury cars.

The sculpture (shown above) was a great visual representation of their familial pride. “Orso” in Italian means “bear,” and by adding the suffix “ini,” the meaning changes to “little bear.”

It’s no surprise that Salvador Dali spent some time here and enjoyed the bizarre figures resting in such an expansive park. Is the camera slanted or is the tower? (Hint: it’s the tower).

After we walked all over the park, we took a short bus ride over to the quaint town of Caprarola. There, I had one of the best meals of my life and walked around Villa Farnese, a castle owned by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, also known as Pope Paul III. Unfortunately, I ran out of film for the castle but got to enjoy waking around the magnificent grounds.

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