Phantoms and fairies in Alto Lazio
As we celebrate everything ghoulish and otherworldly over Halloween and the days of Saints and Souls, we take you to two places in Northern Lazio that are full of mystery and magic: I Giardini di Bomarzo for all things wicked and scary, and Civita di Bagnoregio, a town straight out of a fairy tale.
The Sacro Bosco (Holy Forest) of Bomarzo is more widely known as the Parco dei Mostri… the Monsters’ Park. It was a folly built by Principe Francesco Orsini in the 1550s, following the death of his wife, as a sanctuary where he could vent all his sadness as well as his unconventional and esoteric ideas. As you enter the woods you are confronted by a daunting text: ““Voi che pel mondo gite errando, vaghi di veder meraviglie alte e stupende, venite qua, dove son faccie horrende, elefanti, leoni, orsi, orchi e draghi“… “You travel the world, looking to discover high and beautiful wonders, come here, where there are horrible faces, elephants, lions, bears, orcs and dragons.” This Dantesque warning accompanies the visitor as you see the sphinx, a cavernous mouth, a crooked house, obelisks, monsters, ancient deities, and the tomb where Principe Orsini and his beloved Giulia lie, surrounded and guarded by his inhuman expression of love.
To escape the monsters and feel safe again, half an hour drive north, on the edges of the town of Bagnoregio, an ancient Etruscan town, called Civita, emerges lonely from a caldara of tufa. Connected only by a long narrow pedestrian bridge, the wind gathers and howls around the edge of the town, pushing the weary traveller to fear of being carried away into the valley. 300 meters feel like one of Hercules’ Labours, the wind gathering strength mid-bridge, while the incline becomes steep. But once inside the walls, calm takes over, the monsters are now far, the fairies can cocoon the traveller and start looking up and out again for high beautiful wonders, a warm porcini soup, freshly milled olive oil and a sense of calm. Here you can truly marvel at humanity’s imagination and folly.
We recommend the restaurant Alma Civita, and they also have some rooms to rent.