Italy: Niki de St Phalle's Tarot Garden

A sculpture garden by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle.

Why visit? 
A colourful antidote to 'traditional Tuscany'. Funky modern art, colourful statues, fun for kids, all set in a beautiful garden. You couldn't imagine it existed.

In a remote corner of Tuscany, just across the border with Lazio. Map.

Getting there:
You really need your own wheels to get here.

AFTER A FEW days exploring Tuscany's famous but serious Renaissance artworks and medieval villages made of somber stones, it's something of a welcome surprise to find a whole garden full of brightly coloured modern art. 

The Tarot Garden (Italian: Giardino dei Tarocchi) is a sculpture garden conceived by the French artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002). Her sculptures are famous for the use of bright colours and playful forms. Men, if you like your women voluptuous, you've come to the right place: Saint Phalle's  favourite theme are the 'Nanas', colourful, rotund female figures that seem to personify female fertility (or so my friend Dr Freud tells me).

Influenced by Gaudí's Parc Güel in Barcelona, and Parco dei Mostri in Bomarzo, Niki de Saint Phalle decided that she wanted to make something similar: a monumental sculpture park, this time created by a woman. In 1979 she acquired some land in southern Tuscany, about 100 km north-west of Rome along the coast. The garden was inspired by the symbols found on Tarot cards. The garden took many years, and a considerable sum of money, to complete. It opened in 1998, after nearly 20 years of work.

As you can see, the Garden is full of colourful statues, as well as houses and other structures that are like a wonderland of art and colour. Kids will love it. Being a garden, there is lots of green and there are great views to the coast as well.

An inspiration for Madonna's famous cone bras?

View towards the Mediterranean Sea
A Nana as Venus de Milo
Nana after drinking Red Bull. 

It's important to check the website of the Garden before visiting, as it remains closed during the winter months.

The nearby town of Capalbio is worth a stop as well now that you're in the area. It's nowhere near as famous as the tourist towns further north in Tuscany, but it nevertheless offers a medieval core, beautiful churches, and sweeping views of the Tuscan countryside and the Mediterranean Sea.

The view from Capalbio
A romanesque church in Capalbio
Useful links:
Niki de Saint Phalle- Wikipedia
Tarot Garden- Official Websit