Discover with us Niki de Saint Phalle's Tarot Garden. Ideal destination for a trip in the Capalbio countryside (Tuscany)

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We are in the Tuscan Maremma, near Capalbio. Even from a distance, a spot of bright colors can be glimpsed on the hill, where the sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle in 1979 began the works that lasted almost twenty years, for the creation of the artist's park inspired by the game of Tarot.

Twenty-two (like the arcana of the Tarot) imaginative works, located in the garden, make a visit to the park a sort of treasure hunt or a walk on the path of Alice in Wonderland, where the unpredictable is at every turn and you never have to lose sight of the engraved messages left by the artist in the most unthinkable places. Monumental sculptures between twelve and fifteen meters in height, made of various materials such as glass, steel and porcelain. Cascades of water, mirrors of every kind, glazed mosaics surprise and accompany every step of the visitor.

Exploring the Tarot Garden: how to get there and what to see

Sculpture Tarot Garden

To get to the Tarot Garden by car from the SS1, take Chiarone exit and follow the signs for Pescia Fiorentina, you will then begin to notice signs indicating the Garden. A large free car park welcomes you. If, on the other hand, you travel by train you will have to get off at the Capalbio Scalo station and from there continue by taxi, unless you are a great walker and want to walk ten kilometers.

Crossing the threshold you will be at the foot of a small hill, you will have two possibilities: follow the recommended route which gradually climbs towards the hill or let yourself be carried away by your intuition and your curiosity towards the colored sculptures a little hidden by the trees or by the small clues left by the artist, each of which will give you a message. If, on the other hand, it is a hot day, let yourself be attracted by the gush of the fountains.

The Artist

Stravinsky Fountain

French American Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 - 2002) was a painter, sculptor, and filmmaker. She was a rebellious spirit, sparkling eyes, and a very lively intelligence. Since she was a child, she was expelled from the schools she attended, she invented an art that many defined as feminist. She is the artist of the famous Stravinsky fountain, in front of the Georges Pompidou center in Paris. The Tarot Garden is her last work and her most complex.

"... My garden is a place of meditation, a place away from the crowds and the pressure of time ... A place that makes the eyes and the heart rejoice" this is how Niki describes her park, a place that would heal anyone's spirit would visit him. The Tarot Garden is a particular example of Art Garden, an encouragement to make your dreams come true, whatever they may be.

The Empress-sphinx

Sculpture The Empress-sphinx internal

Niki de Saint Phalle personally followed the work of the park flanked by a team of workers and sometimes by the collaboration of artists, first and foremost her husband Jean Tinguely (Swiss sculpture) and among others the Italian ceramist Venera Finocchiaro.

To maintain constant contact with the works in progress, for several years Niki lived inside one of the sculptures, the most impressive and representative: the Empress-sphinx, placed in a dominant position over the entire garden. A woman's face with a shapely leonine body from which two large colored breasts stand out, in one Niki had placed her bedroom, in the other a bathroom. Then we find a kitchen equipped with all appliances and a dining room. The walls of all the rooms are covered with minute mirror mosaic tiles that reflect everything that comes near them. Outside the sculpture of the Empress-sphinx is a rudimentary wooden table that probably hosted Niki's summer dinners in the company of her friends. 

Tarot Garden: the Idea

Sculpture Tarot Garden

Niki for her Tarot Garden, follows the strong inspiration she had after a visit to Antoni Gaudí's Parc Güell in Barcelona, later strengthened by a visit to the Bomarzo Monsters’s Park in the province of Viterbo, the Sacred Wood created by Pirro Ligorio in 1547, commissioned by Prince Orsini who had dedicated it to his beloved wife.

The suggestions received from the visit to the two parks, the first for the colors and lines, the second for its symbolic meaning, settle in Niki's soul and come to fruition only years later following the meeting of Saint Phalle with the photographer Marella Caracciolo, wife of Gianni Agnelli, who, after listening to her wonderful project, provides her with a two-hectare site in the Agnelli estate in the Tuscan Maremma, which would later become the Tarot Garden.

Where to eat near the Park

Fresh fried fish

The Tarot Garden is open only from 1st April to 15th October, from 2.30pm to 7.30pm. An ideal stop for a trip or to start discovering Tuscany. If you arrive before opening, we recommend a lunch at Ultima Spiaggia (Chiarone), a choice of buffet lunch, honest prices and tasty dishes with local ingredients such as very fresh fried fish or couscous, lots of vegetables too, if instead you come after the visit, you can enjoy an aperitif watching the setting sun and stay for dinner at the restaurant.

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