The Sacro Bosco (sacred wood) at Bomarzo is the most extraordinary and endlessly fascinating of Renaissance estates. The creation of Pierfrancesco Orsini, known as Vicino (1523–1585), a cultured and erudite noble condottiere, it was begun about 1552 and continued sporadically through his life. Much was done in the few years after 1560, when his beloved wife, Giulia Farnese, died, including construction of the tempietto dedicated to her.

Throughout the bosco are inscriptions, several alluding to Dante, Petrarch, and Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. In letters, Vicino always used the terms bosco or boschetto (little wood) and the moniker Sacro Bosco, which derives from Jacopo Sannazaro's Arcadia, appears in one of the inscriptions. The sculptures, a number carved from the volcanic outcroppings, include fantastic animals, colossal figures, mythological characters, grotesque heads, pseudo-Etruscan tombs, and fake ruins. While some of the garden elements...

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