A 16th-century park of monsters in Bomarzo makes a fascinating day trip from Rome.
The origins of this charming town in north Lazio date back to the Etruscan era however Bomarzo is known primarily for its wondrous Parco dei Mostri, a 16th-century park designed by Renaissance architect Pirro Ligorio.
This wooded “park of monsters”, also called Bosco Sacro or the Sacred Wood, was commissioned by the grief-stricken Pier Francesco Orsini, Duke of Bomarzo, to help him cope with the death of his wife Giulia.
The park features grotesque mythological sculptures and fountains - attributed to sculptor Simone Moschino - including the much-photographed Orcus (cover picture), the winged horse Pegasus, and the Sleeping Nymph.
This magical park was designed to astound visitors, rather than please them, and some of its more bizarre sculptures include a fearsome dragon, a fight between good and evil giants, a turtle with a winged woman on its shell, a pair of sphinxes, and the Leaning House.
The park became overgrown and neglected between the 19th- and mid-20th centuries until its current owners, the Bettini family, carried out an extensive renovation programme in the 1970s.
Tickets cost €11 for adults and children and €8 for children aged four to 13. Entry is free for children under four. For full visiting details see park website.
How to get to Bomarzo
Train: Trains from Roma Termini to Attigliano-Bomarzo station take around 55 minutes. Trains from Rome also reach nearby Orte and Viterbo, with Cotral buses to Bomarzo operating from both towns. Car: 93 km north from Rome to Bomarzo via A1 / E35. The drive takes about 1.5 hours.