Through the Mosaic Looking Glass

By Chiara Pace
November 14, 2014

Not only Roman remains or medieval castles. There is a place in Italy where time does not exist and where a magical and mystical atmosphere makes the visitors feel like being in a dream where they can not see their bodies but for being projected into endless distorted mosaic pieces. It is called the Tarots Garden.


I have to admit that sometimes I feel like I have been traveling much more around Europe and the world than in my, let me say, amazing, country. This especially happens when I go to places I never had expected to find or I never heard about before and, instead, they let me astonished.

Living in a big city can make us forget how many wonderful things exist outside its centre and, especially talking about cities like Rome or Florence, in Italy, where you can find something new and special every day, the exploration of the surrounding areas is often forgotten by residents.

Last time I felt like I discovered “a new world” just next to my house’s door was when I have finally decided (because, at least, I have been planning to go for a long time but have never taken action) to go to the “Giardino dei Tarocchi”, the Tarots Garden, in the south of Tuscany and less than two hours north of Rome by car.


This is a vast garden where the french artist Niki de Saint Phalle, inspired by Antoni Gaudí´s Parc Güell in Barcelona and other similar places, created, together with her husband and many artists and friends, twenty-two monumental figures made of reinforced concrete and covered with mirrors and ceramic mosaic which represent the greater mysteries of the tarots.

My first suggestion for those who want to get lost in this place is to go on a weekday so to avoid the weekend or the national holidays rush hours. The best part of the visit is to enjoy the silence and the intimacy that it deserves. This is exactly what the creator wrote on the big marble banner you can find soon after the entrance: the Tarots Garden is a place of love, of sufferings, of art and should not be confused, just because of its joyful and coloured appearance, with a playground for kids (unfortunately this is exactly what I experienced). The huge pavillion through which visitors enter, designed by Mario Botta, an italian architect, also conveys the same message: leave outside everything but your senses to fully understand the spirit of this mysterious and somewhat magical garden.


The place is permeated by the sadness and sufferings of the artist and the most incredible aspect lies in the fact that these feelings and emotions have been expressed by tons of colorful pieces and segmented mirrors covering the huge statues and creations representing the tarots.

There is an easy to find route and everybody can walk through the still figures: the High Priestess, the Emperor, the Temperance, the Death, the Devil, the Fool, the World and then the sphinx-like Empress, the alcove where Niki de Saint Phalle and her husband, Jean Tinguely, spent some months while the garden was being created. The inside is, in fact, a real house, perfectly working and with a functional design but stunningly padded by an iridescent mirror mosaic: a sort of “through the looking-glass” very special experience.


The feeling after leaving the garden is that of a bitter smile, it seems like you have just been rummaging into somebody else’s closet. Actually, when we linger on watching a piece of art it is always a matter of entering into the personal world of an artist, into his or her intimacy but, in the Tarots Garden case it means effectively going in depth, down into their own bedroom.

Anyway, the surrounding panorama, the olive trees fields and the low hills belonging to the southward Tuscany coast hiding the park from the eyes of those who do not know its location (or existence), immediately restore in your mind a relaxed and peaceful mood which makes you appreciate without any melancholy left the expressiveness and the genius behind this extraordinary place.


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