The empress, the devil and the moon.

I wish  the Tarot Garden was nearer. I’d love to go there often. But I’m in Northern Tuscany and it’s about as far south in Tuscany as you can get, about a mile from the border with Lazio. It’s like a theme park for grown ups, who can justify it as ‘Art’, though equally appealing for kids. Mine said it was ‘bonkers’ and they’re right, and that’s what’s so great about it. It’s fun. It’s wacky. You just have to smile!

The Tarot Garden was created by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) She describes visiting Gaudi’s Park Guell in

Barcelona  in 1955 “I knew that I was meant one day to build my own garden of Joy” and that’s exactly what this  is, a Joy. This place is so tactile, there’s no sense of barriers or  ‘don’t touch’. These pillars inside The Emperor are just irresistible to touch. I loved the chillies, the boys predictably like the skulls!

The Emperor, apparently, is the card for masculine power, for good or for bad. The sculptures represent 22 Tarot cards. I know nothing of Tarot cards. No matter. It’s enough that there was spiritual meaning for the artist. For me, they’re just fun. Niki de Saint Phalle has achieved her aim of a garden of Joy.

I don’t find this devil very scary,  in fact he looks rather jolly. Niki de Saint Phalle wrote that working on it scared her. She was living inside one of the largest sculptures at the time, the  Empress, nicknamed ‘the Sphinx’, and had visions of hundreds of devils swarming around the Sphinx. Whilst that may well be the product of an artistic imagination, I loved seeing inside the Empress, which had been turned into her home and studio while working on the project, complete with working kitchen and bathroom

The sculptures vary considerably in size, from the house sized Empress to human sized and down to ‘the Star’ shown above inside the Empress/sphinx. The sculptures are set amongst the plants and the landscape, to interact with nature.

I love all these big bottomed, big bosomed, curvaceous ladies, makes me feel in good company!You can tell this place was designed by a woman, there’s a sense of the power of the feminine running through it. ‘Justice’ (with ‘injustice’ locked up inside her) maybe has too rigid a brassiere for comfort though!

The Tarot Garden  is bonkers, but bonkers is an entirely good way. And very inspirational. To think of one woman having the vision, then making it happen in a very remote corner of Tuscany. Work began in 1978, the garden opened to the public in 1998. That’s truly a labour of love. Niki de Saint Phalle wrote that it was “My destiny to make this garden, no matter how great the difficulties”. I’m so glad she did, the world is surely a better place for having joys like this garden in it. It is off the beaten track, but well worth seeking out, especially if you are looking for somewhere to please ALL the family!

TOP TIP!Take a bottle of water! We found it very hot, dry and dusty and there were no fountains to drink from.


How to get there.

Il Giardino dei Tarocchi is in localita Garavicchio, Pescia Fiorentino, near Capalbio, in the Province of Grosseto, about 5km inland,  very close to the border with Lazio. Reach it on the via Aurelia SS1, exit at Pescia Fiorentino. Head left, should soon spot the park!

Open April to mid October.

About From a Tuscan Villa

Tuscan B&B, bed and breakfast accommodation and self catering villa rental in Bagni di Lucca, northern Tuscany, Italy
This entry was posted in Art, Summer, Tuscany and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The empress, the devil and the moon.

  1. Debra Kolkka says:

    I have never heard of if!!! Thanks for the tip. It is a lot like Park Guell in Barcelona

  2. Looks like a very cool place to visit.

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