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THE MASONE LABYRINTH - PARMA
Labyrinth | Nature | Art | Attraction
The largest labyrinth in the world was created at Fontanellato from an idea of Franco Maria Ricci, publisher, designer, art collector and bibliophile, and a promise he made in 1977 to the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, who has always been fascinated by the symbol of the labyrinth, also a metaphor of the human condition.
There are labyrinths with Minotaurs. And gardens full of delights. Eden where wandering is wonderful mental labyrinths, where you can lose and then find yourself. Ricci, an aesthete of sublime taste who has always been a lover of beauty, has created an elegant, enticing maze. A place of culture, extending over eight hectares (80,000 sq. metres) of land, designed by him with the architects Pier Carlo Bontempi, who completed the surprising buildings, and Davide Dutto, who planned the geometry of the park.
The labyrinth is at Fontanellato, Parma, a village full of history.
The bamboo labyrinth should be considered as a legacy to that strip of the Po Valley including Parma, its countryside and the nearby towns, which Ricci has been tied to since birth and whose importance for art and the Italian landscape is often undervalued.
Parma has always been a place of delight, the cradle of large, precious art collections. Fontanellato, with its splendid historic centre, the Rocca Sanvitale and Parmigianino's frescoes, contains an extraordinary artistic heritage and its also well-known for good food.
Ricci is fascinated not only by the vicinity to a place so full of beauty but also the fondness for Fontanellato's rural nature, specifically the Masone estate, which has been in his family for generations.
The labyrinth is an original place of many shape, starting from the architecture of the whole project.
There are three forms of classic labyrinth:
- the Cretan maze, with seven spirals;
- the Roman maze, with right angles and divided into quarters (four inter-communicating labyrinths);
- the Christian maze, with 11 spirals, of the Charters type.
Ricci chose inspiration from the second one, nevertheless reworking it and introducing little traps here and there - junctions and blind alleys which there weren't in the strictly unicursal (single-path) Roman labyrinths. The perimeter is star-shaped, a form which appears for the first time in Filarete's Treatise on Architecture and was subsequently adopted by Vespasiano Gonzaga in Sabbioneta and the Venetian Republic at Davide Dutto who had edited a volume with the virtual reconstructions of Poliphilo's Garden for Franco Maria Ricci.
There is also a pyramid-shaped chapel inside the maze, a commemoration of the ancient link between mazes and faith. A labyrinth as a continuous reference between exterior and interior is depicted on the door of this building and ceremonies can also be held there.
The Mason maze appears as a highly original place of culture:
- it pays special attention to botany;
- it is a unique cultural asset through the library and the museum;
- it is an open atelier, seeing that it houses the head office of the publisher Franco Maria Ricci;
- it doesn't forget either the outstanding local and national gastronomic pre-eminences, valorised by the very high quality catering spaces.
In addition to a unique experience offered by entering the thousand passages of the maze, Ricci also thought of creating collateral structures that confirm its nature as an ideal place for leisure time: the restaurant will be for those who want to lunch elegantly, respecting tradition.
Ricci's love for the classico is not belied even at table. The base of the menu will be traditional Parma and Italian cuisine, developed and created by the well-known Spigaroli Brothers, Michelin-starred chefs; the bistro-café has been designed for those who want to rest for a moment during the visit.
A quick, but excellent lunch can be taken seated under the porticos; the suites, consisting of two luxurious apartment finished with decorations of works of art and elegant furnishings, are at the heart of the labyrinth. They have one bedroom and two large bathrooms and are intended for guests of honour arriving from afar and lovers of total comfort.
Franco Maria Ricci discovered his passion for bamboo in the 1980s. Over the years, he has planted more then 20,000 bamboos and there are about 20 different species in the park, from the dwarf ones to gigantic ones.
It is an extraordinary plant that doesn't become diseased, doesn't lose its leaves in winter and absorbs great quantities of carbon dioxide. The labyrinth is the living proof of the immense potential of this plant.
Even the parquet floor of the building is made from the same material, for greater consistency in the whole project.
Franco Maria Ricci's vast collection of art are housed in the museum.
To date, it includes more than 500 works including paintings, sculptures and art objects, dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries.
The first of the many temporary exhibitions, that alternate, was inaugurated on 28 May 2015 and was entitled "Arte e Follia" (Art and Madness), arranged by Vittorio Sgarbi. Ricci's eclecticism can also be seen in the variety of works collected - from Bernini to Ligabue to Carracci, his very costly 1960s Jaguar.
The library contains the complete collection of volumes printed by Bodoni - more than 1,200 volume with very fine bindings, collected over the years by Ricci. In addition, all its edition and those Alberto Tallone, another leading Italian bibliophile, is exhibited in the labyrinth.
The labyrinth in numbers:
200,000 bamboos up to 5 metres tall;
a total surface of 8 hectares;
3 kilometres of internal paths;
500 works situated in the museum space annexed to the labyrinth;
2,000 square-metre-square at the centre of the labyrinth, ready to host concerts, parties and exhibitions;
15,000 volumes on the history of art in the library.
The complex of the Masone labyrinth is open
every day from 10.30 am to 7pm.
Closed on Tuesday.
The ticket costs €18 and is valid for one day.
It gives access to the whole complex, the collections of art and books.
There are reductions for groups of more than 15 people and school groups.
The ticket for a person accompanying a disabled person is free of charge.
All the path of the labyrinth complex are barrier-free and allow independent access to handicapped people.
Contact the labyrinth offices for the costs of guided tours.
For booking and any other information:
tel. +39 0521 827081
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