We have been looking forward to visiting Bomarzo for a while- a ‘monster park’ of large stone statues and fountains, created in a similar era to the fountains we saw in Tivoli, but in a completely different style. We’ve been intrigued since seeing it on a documentary and more recently, our friend Pam has told us it’s her favourite place to visit outside of Rome.
It doesn’t disappoint, and for the first time in several days, we realise upon arrival that it’s close to lunchtime so head first into the nearby village to find food before everywhere stops serving. It’s a pretty hilltop village with great views over the surrounding lush green hills and its own lift to the higher levels (!?). All down the narrow lanes are flags hanging from buildings, pretty green plants and cats, A LOT of cats.
It’s a curious place and I’m even more curious as we continue exploring and see that the crest on the flags changes as we enter another part of the village. Soon we see posters for recent horse races through the village and realise that each flag is that of an ancient family, one of five taking part in the race. Despite our clever time planning, we’ve found somewhere with very few open shops and settle on a small bar serving food with a great view. I manage to order, with a lot of pointing and some confusion as they’re out of some of the ingredients, but the pizzas are good and set us up nicely for our upcoming tour.
The Monstri Park is only a few minutes’ drive outside the village and we manage to get ourselves a parking spot in the shade, noticing as we pull up the several coach loads of school children having a lunchtime play on the swings and see-saw…well actually, we see the teenagers doing this, rather than the smaller children.
We set off, passing them and feeling a little thankful to have arrived during their lunch break. Our surroundings are gorgeous and peaceful, a big green space dotted with trees and pathways, on various levels so it’s cosy and private yet expansive and interesting at the same time. We’re walking through a sort of snow of flying seeds, which is also coating the floor. Of course, we can’t resist picking some up for Zaza to touch, quickly regretting this as it sticks firm to her suncream coated skin!
We pass the sphinxes guarding the entrance, inviting us in with open minds. The first large sculpture we reach is of a sea monster with the world atop his head, topped with the castle of the commissioning family (a little egocentric perhaps?). We can’t get in it, but it’s pretty cool to see it and imagine as we’re walking around, how it may have felt as visitors to the garden when it was first created.
Next we wind downhill, passing a large turtle near the open mouth of a whale to a sculpture of giants- a giant Hercules defeating …erm…I can’t quite remember who now…standing in front of it, I wish Zaza was a little older so we could have a go at recreating the image.
From here, we pass many a statue linking to mythology, including a sculpture of Scilla, who Marie’s written about before (sea monster on the toe of the Italian boot, gobbling up anyone who comes her way), or as Marie points out, perhaps it’s a sculpture of Charybdis, the sea monster on the edge of Sicily, who seems to get a bit of a raw deal on the sculpture front with everyone always seeming to interpret the sculptures as depictions of Scilla instead.
We then approach a leaning house, which we walk through with a surprisingly disorientating effect, up onto the higher level where Eliza’s hunger needs become immediate and where, once she’s finished, we meet ALL the tour groups of school children, one after another, laughing through the house and somewhat impatiently waiting for (or chatting while) the tour guide finishes her description so they can get inside the mouth of the next statue, a large monster.
Getting inside the mouth of the monster is still fun as an adult it turns out, although the image of Zaza I’d hoped to create doesn’t really work out as it is too dark inside (I was trying for an image of her inside alone, while I was hiding behind the tongue/table, but no luck).
The rest of our walk is somewhat compromised by the noisy groups, but everything is still beautiful and green and we see a whole host of animal sculptures including an elephant and another carving of Fluffy, the three headed dog.
As for Zaza’s impression of the monster park, well, she’d like you all to know that she has feet she can touch and it’s AMAZING!