Parco dei Mostri, Bomarzo, Italy, May 2018
This place was out there in the best way. It's a deliberate rejection of the formal, manicured noble gardens and estates of the time, and it's survived long after many of those gardens disappeared. We suspected a lot of good wine was involved.
More on the garden:
The Park of the Monsters, or “Parco dei Mostri,” in the Garden of Bomarzo was not meant to be pretty. Commissioned in 1552 by Prince Pier Francesco Orsini, it was an expression of grief designed to shock.
The Prince, also known as Vicino, had just been through a brutal war, had his friend killed, been held for ransom for years, and come home only to have his beloved wife die. Racked with grief, the Prince wanted to create a shocking “Villa of Wonders” and hired architect Pirro Ligorio to help him do so. Ligorio was a widely respected architect and artist and had previously completed the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Rome after the death of Michelangelo, as well as the Villa d’Este in Tivoli. This was to be an unusual, but interesting job for him.
The park is filed with bizarre and fascinating sculptures for which only the accompanying inscriptions provide any explanation. (Thanks, Atlas Obscura!)
During the 19th century, and deep into the 20th, the garden became overgrown and neglected, but after the Spanish painter Salvador Dalí made a short movie about the park, and completed a painting actually based on the park in the 1950s, the Bettini family implemented a restoration program which lasted throughout the 1970s, and today the garden, which remains private property, is a major tourist attraction. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)