Park of the Monsters, Bomarzo – Itinerary.
The following liste contains all sculptures and structures the Sacred Wood includes, they are put in the same order you will find them along the Park’s itinerary.
Today’s itinerary of Bosco Sacro doesn’t overlap with the original one. As you enter the garden gate which has been willed by the current owners, you will see in front of it, slightly on the right two Sphinxes (Ph. 1-2) with two epigraphs carved in their pedestals. The first says:
“CHI CON CIGLIA INARCATE/ET LABBRA STRETTE/ NON VA PER QUESTO LOCO/MANCO AMMIRA/LE FAMOSE DEL MONDO MOLI SETTE.”
“YOU WHO ENTER THIS PLACE AND DON’T RISE YOUR EYEBROWS AND DON’T PRESSE YOUR LIPS TOGETHER NOR ARE YOU ABLE TO ADMIRE THE FAMOUS SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD.”
The seconde says:
“TU CH’ENTRI QUA PON MENTE/PARTE A PARTE/E DIMMI POI SE TANTE/MERAVIGLIE/SIEN FATTE PER INGANNO/O PUR PER ARTE.”
“YOU WHO ENTER HERE PUT YOUR MIND TO IT PART BY PART AND TELL ME THEN IF SO MANY WONDERS WERE MADE AS TRICKERY OR AS ART.”
You are still in front of the two Sphinxes, you can choose here between two pathes you walk, but now I lead you turning left, and a few steps away you will find Pan interpretable as god Janus.
You’ll meet at the end of this path the enormous head of Proteus Glaucus (Ph. 3), an Ancient marine divinity which is shown as a “Mascherone” – a huge grotesque masque with open mouth. Butterfly wings are carved out of the rock around Proteus’ head on which there are the Globe and a little castle representing maybe Orsini’s power. Now, you need to turn back on the way. Past the two Sphinxes a Mausoleum (Ph. 4.) imitating Etruscan ruins you will notice. The Tomb’s pediment is carved with bas-relief figures such as a warrior or a Triton, a Siren holding a Pomegranate in her hand and three pisciform beeings which the first one is a Dolphin.
Going on, you’ll get downstairs to an imposing work composed of two figures that have been interpreted in various ways, from among Whrestling Giants (Ph. 5.) and Orlando Furioso who tears in two halves a shepherd. An inscription accompanies these two wrestling colossus:
“SE RODI ALTIER FU GIA DEL SUO COLOSSO/PUR DI QUEST’IL MIO BOSCO ANCHO SI GLORIA/E PER PIU NON POTER FO QUANT’IO POSSO.”
“IF RHODES WAS ELEVATED BY ITS COLOSSUS, SO THIS ONE MAKES NOW GLORIOUS MY WOOD, BUT MORE I CANNOT DO. I DO AS MUCH AS I AM ABLE TO.”
At the left of the Giants some surviving words you can read:
“FIER GIGANTE/… O SCEMPIO/…ANGLANTE.”
Itinerary leads you turning on the right, you’ll get on a lower level along which a stream is flowing. On this terrace stands a Tortoise (Ph. 6.) carrying a figure of woman who is balancing upon a sphere.
The Tortoise is gigantic compared with its natural dimensions, while the woman figure is scaled-down, she was originally winged and shown blowing one of the two horns that she held in her hands. The Tortoise is gazing at the killer Whale (Ph. 7.) with open mouth on the opposite side of the stream.
Nearby is positioned the Fountain of Pegasus (Ph. 8.) that had carved out of a whole bloc and it is leaning.
The mythical figure of Pegasus is linked to literary knowledges of Vicino Orsini who could see the winged horse’s figure while reading the “Strife of love in a dream” (Hypnerotomachia Poliphili) which is a Chivalry Poem attributed to Francesco Colonna. This well-known work during the Late Renaissance period tells about the journey of Polifilo in his dream that lead him in fantastic places permeated with allegorical significances. Hypnerotomachia Polifili’s language is full of puns and riddles, it is simbolic and rich of descriptions of strange places, architectural works, in the middle of Nature. It is no accident that this magnificently crafted volume published in 1499 and illustrated with 172 admirable woodcuts inspired many Renaissance and Late Renaissance Gardens amongst which arguably the Woodlang Gardens of Bomarzo.
Stream runs along the garden’s path you walk and a few steps away, past the Fountain of Pegasus, you will see on the left a (sculpted) Trunk of tree and on the right a Truncated column, both are interpreted as fals ruins.
Near to the Trunk of tree and the Truncated column stands the Nymphaeum (Ph. 9.)which salient part is carved with the Three Graces in three niches, while in its inward part there are five other niches and same number of nymphs. A not interely survived inscription is carved on the Nimphaeum’s wall:
“ L’ANTRO LA FONTE IL LI…/D’OGNI OSCURO PENSIER… “
“THE CAVE THE FOUNT…/ALL OBSCURE THOUGHT…”
On the opposite side the Nimpheum, beyond the benches, there is a Fountain in the shape of a boat (Ph. 10.) that was originally feeded by two cuples of Dolphins you see in poop.
Going on, beyond the Nympaeum and the Boat Fountain, you arrive on a square also named Egyptian Square (Ph. 11.) where on the left, in a Grotto’s nich there is a statue of Venus/Isis standing on a Dragon with closed wings or Basilisk.
Near the Grotto of Venus, to the right of the cave’s collapsed vault a Horned Mascherone (Ph. 12.) is carved in bas-relief, it can be identificable as Jupiter Amun. Another identical “Mascherone” has been placed on the ground, to the left of Venus’ cave.
Beside of the Venus Sacrarium stands the Theatre (Ph. 13) which scene is leaning. This structure has been recently interpreted to be connected with “The Idea of the Theatre” of Giulio Camillo Delminio. In the Theatre’s lower part a today incomplet inscription is carved:
“PER SIMIL VANITA MI SON AC…/…PARMI CORTO.”
“SUCH A VANITY …/…SEEMS ME SHORT”.
On the Square of the Theatre there are two Obelisks which bases are carved with two inscriptions:
“SOLO PER /SFOGAR/IL/CORE e VICINO/ORSINI/NEL/MDLII.”
“JUST POURING THE HEART OUT” and “VICINO/ORSINI/ IN/MDLII.”
Beyond the two obelisks a colonnade of Hermes put on tall pilasters integrates the Theatre square.
As you pass the Square of the theatre, a Leaning house (Ph. 14) draws your attention. This structure was built on the base of an enormous leaning block rock. On the house walls you can see Orsini’s coat of arms and two inscriptions:
“ANIMUS QUESCENDO FIT PRUDENTIOR ERGO and CRIST MADRUTIO/PRINCIPI TRIDENTINO/DICATUM.” A nearly identical house is shown in an illustration to the Symbolicarum Quaestionum (1555-56, Bologna) by Achille Bocchi.
On the left of the Leaning house stands an altar sculpted out of rock, of undated period. The altar’s top is carved in bas-relief with a figure of woman praying, arguably she’s Mary Magdalen or Mary of Egypt. Above her at her right is a little Crucifix, on her left you see plants difficult to recognize.
Stairs at the left of the Leaning house lead from the Theatre-level up to a higher terrace from where you can enter the house. Getting out of the Leaning house on the left, the Square of the Vases (Ph. 15) you will see.
The vases here have reference to etruscan cinerary urns, pseudo-archaeological ones. On two of them surviving inscriptions you can read:
“FONTE NON FU TRA…/A GUARDIA SIA DELLE PIU STRANE BELVE.” “NOTTE ET GIORNONOI SIAM VIGILI E PRONTE/A GUARDAR D’OGNI INGIURIA QUESTA FONTE.”
“FOUNT WASN’T…” and “NIGHT AND DAY WE ARE VIGILANT AND READY TO PROTECT THIS FOUNTAIN FROM ANY HARM.”
At the Square of the Vases the Fountain of Neptune/Pluto (Ph. 16) of double identification is situated.
Past the Fountain of Neptun/Pluto on the left, a corner you will find from where there is a gigantic figure of woman called the Sleeping Nymph (Ph. 17) or Armida. From the same corner you have an interesting view below on Theatre.
Near the Sleeping Nymphe there is a Horned Mascherone identical to the one put close to the Grotto of Venus. Near the Horned Mascherone there are ruins of a little Tower.
Turn back at the Square of the Vases where close to the Fountain of Neptun-Pluto you see a Dragon (Ph. 18) fighting with two beasts may be a Lion and a Wolf or a Lioness.
The Dragon is looking straight ahead at another group of sculptures, a life-size Elephant (Ph. 19) bearing on its back a war-tower, and catching with its trunk a fallen roman legionnaire, while is ridden by another warrior.
You are still on the Square of the Vases. Have a look at the opposite side of the Fountain of Neptun-Pluto, and what you see behind trees, is a huge figure of woman interpretable as Cerere/Demeter-Amphitrite (Ph. 20), on her head a big vase.
Look then at the back-side of Cerere/Demeter-Amphitrite that shows a group of sculptures representing some figures of the aquatic world: they are fish-tailed women figures with wings of batterfly, Nereids, and a bearded marine creature.
As you pass Cerere/Demeter-Amphitrite and the richly sculpted Elephant’s hindquarters, just a few steps away on the left you meet the Ogre (“Orco” Ph. 21)!
It is a mascherone with open jaws that make possible to enter its mouth. What you will find inside is a fresh cave with a bench sculpted in the rock round the wall, and a table carved out of the rock in the middle. The Ogre’s higher lip is carved with the inscription as follows:
“OGNI PENSIERO VOLA.”
“ALL THOUGHT FLY AWAY” which isn’t the original one but changed by the owners. The original words were:
“LASCIATE OGNI PENSIERO VOI CH’ENTRATE.”
“ABANDON ALL THOUGHT YOU WHO ENTER HERE”.
Following itinerary you have the Ogre behind you and looking on the left you see a six meters high Giant Vase (Ph 22) that is represented out of scale, similarly to many other structures of the garden. Function the vase could play was to serve as support to lamps or torches illuminating nighttime the clearing around.
In front of the Giant Vase, slightly on the right stands the Ram with the golden fleece. Near to it there is a fossa grave excavated in the rock, it is a pseudo-archaeological finding and it is, as many other elements of the garden, leaning.
Turn back to the Ram with the golden fleece that is at your back now, in front of it stands the Etruscan bench (Ph. 23) that is leaning and conceived as an arched nich, the seat back is carved with an inscription:
“VOI CHE PER MONDO GITE ERRANDO, VAGHI/DI VEDER MARAVIGLIE ALTE E STUPENDE,/VENITE QUA, DOVE SON FACCIE ORRENDE,/ELEFANTI, LEONI, ORSI, ORCHI E DRAGHI.”
“YOU WHO GO MEANDERING IN THE WORLD, TO SEE HIGH AND STUPENDOUS WONDERS, COME HERE WHERE THERE ARE HORRENDOUS FACES, ELEPHANTS, LIONS, BEARS AND DRAGONS.”
Upstairs at the left of the Etruscan bench you get on a higher terrace named Square of the Pine Cones (Ph. 24) and of the Acorns, you see now on the right Cerberus, the guardian of the Underwold, on the left you see the back of a figure.
Passing in front of it, you will see a woman figure interpretable as Persephone or Proserpina Queen of the Underworld. Proserpina is sculpted into the upper parte of a curved bench, his arms on the backrest. The terrace similarly to the one of the Vases, is shown in its plan as an archaeological site linked to an Ancient basilica. On the opposite side to Proserpina stand two Bears holding up Orsini’s coat of arms, while along the left side and the right side of the “basilica” stand rows of hudge Pine Cones and Acorns.
Behind the two bears you will find a couple of Lions (a Lion and a Lioness), they are put between two figures of women that are positioned one in front of the other: you see a double-fish-tailed Siren (Ph. 25) and in front of it a Harpy (Ph. 26).
The Harpy has wings and talons of a bird, tail of a Siren. She has a vase on her head, as we had seen at Ceres.
Close to the Harpy you find the path leading uphill to the Belvedere (Ph. 27). This structure has a round plan and it is facing the Xystus of the lower level that has been the Sqare of Pine cones, where from, you could notice an inscription carved into Belvedere rock base:
“CEDEAN ET MENPHI E OGNI ALTRA MERAVIGLIA/CH’EBBE GIA IL MONDO IN PREGIO AL SACRO BOSCHO/CHE SOL SE STESSO E NULL’ALTRO SOMIGLIA.”
“MEMPHIS AND ANY OTHER MARVEL OF THE WORLD THAT HELD IN ADMIRE THE HOLY WOOD THAT IS ONLY LIKE ITSELF AND NOTHING ELSE.”
You get then near to Belvedere on Hill top where stands a Temple (Ph. 28) built by Vicino in memory of his wife, Giulia Farnese and which has been drown scholar’s attention beacause of its architectural quality and its elements containing simbolical meanings.