This fantastic contemporary tour outside of Florence will take us to southern Tuscany, near the town of Capalbio. In Garavicchio, French sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle’s dream which she nurtured since childhood has come true; a magical journey into the world of mysteries and the supreme secret. Her thoughts and artistic abilities are displayed in the twenty-one medium and large size works, each of which represents one of the Major Arcana of the Tarot cards. Upon entering the garden, you can feel the magical atmosphere of a “carnival dream”, a kaleidoscopic shimmer of mirrors that reflect light and colors which will sweep you away.
This phantasmagorical project began in 1979, when the brothers of her friend Marella Caracciolo, offered her a piece of land of their estate in Maremma. The overall project was adapted to the geological formation of the land on which stood a disused quarry in the shape of an amphitheater. And so began the architecture-sculpture village with its viable paths, squares and buildings open for visiting. Inside the Empress sculpture the artist created her home-studio since the garden had become her second home for 14 years until her death in 2002. During her long and arduous work De Saint Phalle was assisted by the sculptor Jean Tinguely who was bound to her both emotionally and artistically and was able to build the monumental figures with great engineering skill.
The Papessa (High priestess), which is the main sculptural group, is located at the center of the amphitheatre. It includes three other arcanas: the Magician, the Lunatic and the Wheel of Fortune, around which rotate other systems of smaller sculptures like in a galaxy. It is the triumph of artifice over nature, according to the artist’s indomitable spirit to follow her own poetic reference rather than the laws imposed by the market. Nevertheless, the artist was clearly inspired by other historical parks such as Gaudi’s Parc Guell in Barcelona but also Pirro Ligorio’s waterworks in Villa D’Este at Tivoli and the nearby Bomarzo Sacred Grove whose ogre’s open mouth is cited in the Papessa work of art.
This route offers many opportunities to combine a fabulous lunch with a guided visit of the charming town of Capalbio, not only accompanied by a contemporary art expert guide, but also with food and wine tours. Let’s not forget that amongst the Tuscan Maremma wines are the famous Sassicaia and Brunello di Montalcino which can be enjoyed along with the culinary delights of the Maremma such as wild boar, meat, fish… and much more. If you prefer to take a swim in the sea you can have a great time diving in the crystalline waters of the Argentario, where you the fabulous Feniglia beach can be found.
The Garden is open to the public from April to mid-October only afternoons from 2:30 to 7:30 pm, (the cost is € 10 for adults and € 6 for children), but on the first Saturday of every month from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm the Admission is free. I dedicated a detailed chapter in my guide book on art Trekking with reference to the Giardino dei Tarocchi; (of which you can see an extract on: www.contemporaryflorence.com).