June 17, 2018
En route towards the Tyrrhenian Sea, I pass through the ancient town of Montalto di Castro, founded in the 5th century A.D. The town is situated on the Via Aurelia, which continues northwards along the Tuscan coast. While the immediate centre of town is characterized by the cloistered feeling typical of Italian medieval towns, the proximity of the coast and its requisite beaches is evident in the relaxed and airy feeling of much of the town.
Montalto di Castro is first mentioned in a bull of Pope Leo IV at the end of the 9th century A.D., stating that the Castrum Montis Alti (the town’s original name) belongs to the Diocese of Tuscania. The Castrum Montis Alti was located on the border of Tuscany, which was then occupied by the Lombards.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the town was at the center of continuous conflicts between the Papacy and the local feudal lords, including the Aldobrandeschi, the Prefects of Vico and the Orsini family, who built the fortress. From 1537 to 1649 it was part of the Duchy of Castro, a fief created by Pope Paolo III Farnese for his son Pierluigi. With the destruction of Castro (1649), Montalto was reinstated in the Papal States, to which it belonged until 1870.
The old town is dominated by the atmospheric Castello Guglielmi, built in the 15th century by the Orsini family. From a door created in the northern section of the palace walls leads to Piazza Felice Guglielmi onto which the neoclassical façade of S. Croce looks out. Along the via Soldatelli is located the 18th century façade of the parish church of S. Maria Assunta. On the piazza Giacomo Matteotti lies the Palazzo del Comune of Montalto di Castro, originally built at the edge of the urban area as a Franciscan convent, and later transformed into a fortress by the Farnese family and incorporated into the city walls.
The Marina di Montalto di Castro connected to the town is a beach resort featuring wide sandy beaches and pine wood forests. Further to the south lie the ancient structures of the Regisvilla port, linked to the ancient Etruscan city of Vulci.
The Giardino dei Tarocchi is a sculpture garden created by the French artist Niki de Saint Phalle in Pescia Fiorentina, in coastal Tuscany, based on the esoteric tarot. The park was opened to the public in 1998.
Inspired by Antoni Gaudí´s Parc Güell in Barcelona, the Parco dei Mostri in Bomarzo, the Palais Idéal by Ferdinand Cheval, and the Watts Towers of Simon Rodia, Niki de Saint Phalle created the scupture garden on land situated on top of an Etruscan ruin in Garavicchio, Tuscany over a 17 year period.
The sculptures inspired by the major arcana of the Tarot, rich in symbolic and esoteric meaning, the last stage of an artistic journey begun in the mid-sixties, after abandoning the Nouveau Réalisme and the creation of the “Nanas” series of works.
The 22 gigantic structures were constructed of reinforced concrete and covered with mirrors and ceramic mosaic. The figures can be walked through, in fact, the artist lived inside the sphinx-like Empress for several months during the construction of the garden.
(excerpted from www.infoviterbo.it and www.giardinodeitarocchi.it)