the Monster Park in Bomarzo

A 16th century 'theme park' full of monsters!

Why visit? 

Ever seen a Renaissance version of Disney? This park will appeal to adults and history-buffs alike. 

Just outside Bomarzo, a small town in Northern Lazio, 90 minutes north of Rome. Map.

WHAT IF WALT DIsney had lived in the 16th century? He would probably have built something like the Monster Park (It: Parco dei Mostri, also known as the Sacro Bosco), which was created in the 16th century by one of the members of the local noble Orsini family, Pier Francesco. Pier Francesco apparently went a little cuckoo after his wife died, locking himself up in his castle and coming up with strange new plans (it does sound a little like a Disney fairytale, doesn't it?)

One of his projects was building the world's first theme park. This park was meant to amuse and astonish visitors with its strange monsters, mythical creatures and even a haunted house. Don't expect any actors dressed up as characters though- the real stars here are made of rock and covered in lichen. 

The park is great for kids, who will delight in exploring some of the grottoes and statues. There is plenty of shade which makes it a great place to visit even on a warm day. Also, it is a lot cheaper than a day to Disney World, where the most dangerous monsters are those emptying your wallet by stealth and pester power. 
One of the old fountains, with an old sea monster

Once you're in the Monster Park, you'll find a clearly-marked walking route which takes your past all the various attractions. All in all there are about 20 different stops- some of which can be seen in the pictures here.
Statue of Poseidon. (Spoller alert: Ariel, the cute little mermaid, is nowhere to be seen)

This person looks like he is being waterboarded by a monster (a 16th century version of Dick Cheney?)
Autumn is a nice time to visit as the chestnut trees around the park drop their fruits. 
The beauty about this park is that it is all highly entertaining for various audiences. If you're a history fanatic who wants to look up every obscure myth referenced and who gets all aroused when seeing old rocks, Bob's your uncle. And if you're more interested in running around and listening for the echo in the mouth of a large monster cave- Bob can be your uncle, too. 

The park is located on the outskirts of the town of Bomarzo. Bomarzo is one of those incredibly picturesque Italian towns, made entirely out of stone and built on a rock. Come visit before Rick Steves discovers it!
The town of Bomarzo itself is, as many of the towns in this region, built on a hill and full of medieval houses. 
Getting there.
Sorry, those relying on public transport are in for a bit of a challenge. Getting there on your own (rented) wheels is by far the easiest. Bomarzo does have train station and there are buses from Viterbo so that's another option to explore.  

There are several other great gardens in the area- for more on them, check out our post about 4 Renaissance gardens near Rome on Lazio Explorer. 

Useful links:

Website of the Park and the town