If I were gonna visit Italy, sure I’d see the Coliseum, the Leaning Tower of Piza, the canals of Florence. But you can bet the Parco dei Mostri, or “Park of Monsters,” in the little hamlet of Bomarzo, about fifty miles north of Rome, would be at the top of my itinerary. Numerous large-scale, grotesque sculptures, hewn from the natural outcroppings of stone and surrounded (shrouded?) by verdant flora, wait to frighten or delight the visitor. There are giants, dragons, and harpies, among other, more mundane creatures like an elephant and a giant tortoise (which could be considered a monster, if it looked more like Gamera); the closest the grotto gets to a representation of a werewolf, unfortunately, is a statue of what appears to be a rather-placid looking Cerberus. At least ONE of his heads looks placid.
Commissioned in the late 1500s by Prince Pier Francesco Orsini upon his return from war and the death of his spouse, the park was left abandoned after Orsini’s own death but rediscovered by Salvador Dali in the 1930s and finally refurbished by the Italian government (or town of Bomarzo; I’m not sure which) in the 1950s as a tourist attraction. The Parco dei Mostri has just that right mixture of spooky and cool to make it irresistible to the likes of yours truly. If pressed for time on my visit, I might just have to skip Florence . . .