ONCE UPON A TIME IN SOUTHERN TUSCANY, THE TAROT GARDEN. A MASTERPIECE BY NIKI DE SAINT PHALLE

Everything began in the late seventies, after Niki de Saint Phalle visited the famous Park Güell created by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona and the Park of the Monsters of Bomarzo in Italy. The artist was so fascinated and glamoured that she decided to devote her life to the creation of her own garden where she could freely express all her creativity.

            In Capalbio, along the Via Aurelia, in southern Tuscany, not far away from the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, you can find the splendid garden of Niki de Saint Phalle. The Tarot Garden, a fairy-tale place that, as one can guess from the name, deals with a specific and fascinating theme: the tarots’ major arcana.

            Niki de Saint Phallavev had a strong and multifaceted personality, sometimes dark and mysterious, whereas, others times, more romantic and imaginative. These characteristics are reflected in her works such as gigantic statues, 12 to 15 meters high- in painted polyester and reinforced concrete, covered with mosaics, mirrors, multi-colored ceramics and hand-colored Murano glass.

            The Tarot Garden, a magical and enigmatic place where humans meet nature. A wonderful place of spirituality, truth, kindness and mystery. A privileged place to support reflection and imagination. A project carried out with great difficulty but with incredible enthusiasm, love, passion, but above all faith. A dream place full of charm and history. Honesty and warmth are the elements that characterize this park.

            A never ending dream. The garden was inaugurated in 1998, but, despite the opening, Niki continued to work on it for a further 19 years. A project in continuous evolution which never ceases to fascinate and enchant the incredulous visitors of this fairy-tale place.

            It is interesting to note that Niki cooperated with other artists who, with the same love and professionalism, created works that are in perfect harmony with the main philosophy of the project. The benches outside the garden, the iron and ceramic chairs located inside “The Empress” and the furniture containing the costume jewelry are the work of the French artist Pierre Marie Lejeune. The frescoes inside “The Magician” were painted by Alan Davie. The sculpture within “The Priestess” was created by Marina Karella. The architect Mario Botta designed the entrance to the garden.

            Nowadays the garden is managed by the private foundation “Il Giardino dei Tarocchi”, and it can be visited only in certain periods of the year, from April to October. This is due to its particular appearance, its delicacy and the desire to preserve the fairytale atmosphere of the park. The money from the entrance tickets is entirely used for the continuous maintenance that the garden itself requires.

Article by Sofia Malatesta

Photos by Emily Scaglia

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