Now this chap is definitely a monster! He’s the ogre of Bomarzo and you can go inside his big dark mouth and sit on the stone bench.The park is known as the ‘monster park’ or parco dei mostri, but I think the name is unfair. The statues there are certainly of unusual themes, but more mythological then monstrous. It’s alternative name is ‘sacred wood’ and maybe that’s a little better.
This is the battle of the giants, Hercules and Cacus. Many of the statues had themes from mythology: Proteus, Pegasus, Aries, Neptune and a selection of nymphs and a nymphaeum. Being of the ‘Percy Jackson’ generation our kids are well versed in Greek and Roman mythology by now so this went down very well! Others had historical roots like Hannibal’s elephant, which had a surprising attention to detail!
The story behind the park is as much part of the charm as the unusual statues. It was created from 1552 by Prince Vicino Orsini as a way of dealing with his broken heart over the death of his wife Giulia Farnese. Strange choice of themes for such a romantic story though! It must have been an enchanting place for the lords and ladies of the time to play in, it is arranged so you come across the statues unexpectedly. Orsini was probably way ahead of this time though and his successors had no interest in the garden which fell out of use, was forgotten and became overgrown until rediscovered in 1954. It was restored in the 1960’s by the Bettini family using local workers and opened to the public. The idea of a ‘lost’ garden is strangely appealing.
It is well worth a visit for its unusual theme. The statues are great. It is all about the statues though. It is more of a woodland setting than a ‘garden’, the planting is only green. It was sad to see that the water features had not been restored to working order, there was no water in the ponds and fountains and the lack was felt. A dolphin fountain with no water! Neptune with no water! Yet there is a stream running through, but even if the original source cannot be re-instated surely it must be possible to use some discrete modern methods to get these going again. The entrance fee is a rather steep 10euro, steep as you only spend an hour or so there, it’s not large, so surely they can afford to get the water working again!
Photography– Before visiting I’d read on several english language reviews that one couldn’t take photos at Bomarzo, this seemed puzzling, how could a stone statue be harmed? But once there the reason for this misunderstanding became clear, there are signs with a camera slashed through, but next to it is the clarification that the ban is on’commercial’ photos, but only written in Italian, so no wonder it’s misleading to visitors. Naughty really as most other info is in 4 languages, so why not this! I hope that helps to clarify, so no need to hide your camera after all! (but no video cameras though)
The park is open every day, 8.30 until sunset, 10 euro entrance.
Not suitable for those with mobility difficulties, old and tricky stone steps and varying levels.
There are picnic benches, souvenir shop, cafe and toilets.
Bomarzo is in northern Lazio, about an hour and a quarter’s drive north of Rome. We visited from Bolsena (about 45km, via Montefiascone and Viterbo) but for most it will be reached by the A1 autostrada exit Orte sud. The park is below the town of Bomarzo, follow signs for ‘Parco dei Mostri’ and ‘Sacro Bosco’, or anything with the word monster on it really which is ‘mostro’.
I believe it can be reached by train to Viterbo or Orte Scalo then bus (Cotral) but to be honest you’d need to want to got there very badly to try that, will be very time consuming!