Bomarzo - Il sacro Bosco

Bomarzo: a park of monsters

By Region Central Italy News Travel in Italy

The ancient village of Bomarzo, in the province of Viterbo, is home to monsters. Il Sacro Bosco, (The Sacred Wood) houses a collection of grotesques and giants. ItalyNews walked among the majestic and surreal…

The ancient village of Bomarzo owes its fame to the Orsini family and in particular to Pier Francesco Orsini. Also known as Vicino Orsini, Pier commissioned a masterpeice of art known as the Park of Monsters or Sacred Wood. The park is a garden of delights, a unique monumental complex of gigantic sculptures carved from the large boulders of rock scattered throughout the bomarzese territory.

Its name stems from the many grotesque stone sculptures of creatures, elephants and monsters. There are more than 25 works of art from a leaning house (deliberate, unlike the leaning tower of Pisa), to statues of mermaids, sea monsters, giant turtles, satyrs, sphinxes and dragons.

The garden was created between 1552 and 1580. Vicino Orsino designed the garden alongside Pirro Ligorio, a famous renaissance architect. The sculptures are by Simone Moschino an architect and sculptor from Orvieto.

A whim or something more?

Was the park constructed on the whim of an extravagant nobleman or was there something more?

Legend has it the park was created in remembrance of Giulia Farnese, the deceased wife of Vicino Orsini; she died after 10 years of marriage. Devastated at the loss of his beloved wife, he concentrated his grief into building a monument to her.

He created a path among monsters that represent the difficulties of life. Once you overcome the monsters you reach the top of the hill, your paradise. And it is there, at the top of the hill in the park, that you’ll find a small temple dedicated to his wife.

Temple to Orsini's wife

Written above the entrance to Bomarzo park is the inscription “You who wander around that world, wandering to see equally stupendous wonders, come here where everything speaks of love and art”.


Vicino died in 1574. However, his son didn’t have the same taste as his father, the garden was forgotten, and later sold in 1645. The garden changed hands several times until in 1954 the property was put up for auction. The Bettinni family bought and restored the unique park.

Famous visitors

In 1938, Salvador Dalí visited the park and whilst there produced a short film. Later, the figures and trees of the park were to inspire his 1946 painting The Temptation of Saint Anthony. One can understand why Dalí, coming from a Surrealist perspective, appreciated the uniqueness and oddness of this park.

Bernardo Tasso, an Italian poet, was a friend of the Orsini family and people like to imagine that he visited the park with his son, Torquato Tasso. Torquato was the author of the poem Jerualem Delivered. Perhaps he was left with such an impression of a particular sculpture, the struggle between 2 giants, that it inspired him to recreate this within his famous poem.

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