Italy: La Serpara - A sculpture garden in a hidden corner of Lazio

A garden full of steel contraptions in a very, very out-of-the way corner of Lazio

Why visit?
This part of Italy has no shortages of gardens. They stretch from the the 16th to the 21st century, offering something for everybody.

What sets this one aside is the personal touch: the artist Paul Wieden still lives here, and tours are provided by his family.  

Art and nature merge into a seamless experience in the bucolic backwaters of rural Lazio.

An hour and a half north of Rome, near the hamlet of Civitella d'Agliano. Map. 

WE HAVE WRITTEN before about the many Mannerist gardens of Northern Lazio. We have also held forth about the nearby sculpture gardens conceived by Niki de St Phalle and Daniel Spoerri.  But we hadn't heard of this one until a clued-in friend sent us a WhatsApp message: How about La Serpara? 

Yes, how about it?

La Serpara is a garden created by Paul Wiedmer, a Swiss artist who decided this forgotten corner of Lazio was to be his personal little paradise. 

Classic Wiedmer.

Wiedmer was on friendly terms with fellow Swiss Jean Tinguely, and when Jean's more famous wife, Niki de St Phalle, created her Tarot Garden in the Maremma, Wiedmer came down to Italy to help her. On one of these trips he stumbled upon the little hamlet of Civitella d'Agliano, a small hilltop town where nothing much seems to have happened since 1673. 

An Italian sculpture garden must have been some kind of must-have accessory for Swiss sculptors, and Daniel Spoerri (another Helvetian with his own garden) actually offered some help and before anyone knew it, La Serpara was born. 
La Serpara remains very much a friends 'n family affair. The art comprises works contributed by Wiedmer's friends, as well as some by family members. The garden can only be visited by appointment, and our personal tour guide turned out to be Wiedmer's son, who goes by the nom-de-guerre Samuele Vesuvio. A number of his works take pride of place in the garden. 
Samuele Vesuvio, your personal tour guide. 

Wiedmer likes to play with fire- literally that is. Many of his works feature flames, some of them motion-controlled. 
Our tour took almost 2 hours and we greatly enjoyed it. Samuele Vesuvio, in spite of his name, turned out to be an amiable and knowledgable host, who mixed childhood memories with art criticism and clever jokes (which, being in Italian, may occasionally have gone over our heads). Every object  has a story, and you will be sure to hear about it. If it's hot, like it was on the sweltering day in July we visited, you may want to bring some water and a hat. 
An Etruscan Velvet Underground admirer?

Getting there: 
Must. Have. Car. 
There is no way to get to these boonies without your own wheels. 

And you don't want to rock up without a reservation either: call or email ahead, to announce your imminent arrival, and a suitable time and date will be found.  Contact details can be found here. 

If you made it all the way here, you might as well stop by in the town of Civitella d'Agliano. This hamlet's main claim to fame is the cantina of Sergio Mottura, one of Lazio's best wine producers. What better way to conclude an art-filled afternoon than by sipping crisp white wines and tasting scrumptious food prepared by a talented chef in the ridiculously picturesque town square? 

Useful links:
There's an official website that has the lowdown on Wiedmer and family.