Masone Street 121, Fontanellato
Emilia Romagna, Italy
closed: Tuesdays January 1 and December 25 (reservation recommended) Type of museum: Art
The Labirinto della Masone (Manor Maze) in Fontanellato, a small town near the city of Parma in northern Italy, is a private museum that also includes the largest maze in the world.
Above: The central courtyard of the Labirinto della Masone art center in Fontanellato, Italy. Photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Not exposed.
Also known as Labirinto di Franco Maria Ricci, Labirinto della Masone was founded by an Italian art publisher and collector. Franco Maria Ricci (1937-2020) on the outskirts of Fontanellato, a town about 20 kilometers west of Parma. The idea of creating the center and including the largest labyrinth in the world was born from an idea that the Argentinian writer Jorge Louis Borges offered to Ricci in the 1980s.
Opened to the public in 2015, the center comprises different buildings – which house the Franco Maria Ricci Foundation, a permanent art gallery, special exhibition halls, a café, a restaurant, a library and several meeting and conference spaces. events – and a park with an 8 hectare bamboo labyrinth, from which the center takes its name.
The red brick buildings of the architectural complex, designed by the architect Pier Carlo Bontempi, are clearly inspired by the work of various 18th century neoclassical architects such as Étienne-Louis Boullée and Claude Nicholas Ledoux.
The set, organized around two large porticoed courtyards, also includes a panoramic tower and a pyramid-shaped construction, the design of which obviously recalls the never-before-built de Bullée. Cenotaph of Turenne.
The architecture of the Labirinto della Masone, designed by Pier Carlo Bontempi, is inspired by emblematic projects of 18th century neoclassical architects such as the Cenotaph of Turenne by Etienne-Louis Boullée; Photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Not exposed.
Designed by a landscape architect Davide Dutto is, as mentioned, the the biggest labyrinth in the world (although it may not be the largest maze. The difference between a maze and a labyrinth is that the former has many branches while the latter does not).
The labyrinth occupies an area of 8 hectares and consists of approximately 200,000 bamboo plants of twenty different species.
Several art installations, also made of bamboo, were installed in the labyrinth during my visit. The maze tour lasts from an hour to two hours, depending on how quickly you get the path to the exit. In the event of an emergency, it is possible to call the staff by telephone for help or to be rescued.
Labirinto della Masone, aerial view; the labyrinth’s imprint echoes that of ideal Renaissance cities like Palmanova in northeastern Italy; image courtesy of the Fondazione Franco Maria Ricci.
The art museum
The Labirinto della Masone Center also houses Franco Maria Ricci’s private art collection. Exhibited on the second floor of the main building, the collection includes around 500 works of art – mainly paintings, sculptures and decorative arts objects – made between the 16th and 20th centuries, with a strong emphasis on Mannerist art. , baroque and neoclassical.
An interior view of the museum; photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexposée.
The Labirinto della Masone program includes temporary exhibitions, meetings, lectures, talks, cooking classes, theatrical performances, music concerts and special events.
A view of the bamboo labyrinth from the panoramic tower; photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexposée.
The maze paths have a total length of 3 kilometers / 1.9 miles; photo © Federica Lusiardi / Inexhibit.
The labyrinth is made up of twenty species of bamboo; among them, Phyllostachys vivax “Aureocaulis” is a giant bamboo that can reach a height of 15 meters. Photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Not exposed.
It usually takes about an hour and a half to get out of the maze; photo © Federica Lusiardi / Inexhibit.
A bamboo sculpture by French artist Fred Martin; photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexposée.
The sculptural installation “Interlocked” by Gunjan Tyagi; photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexposée.
The exit from the labyrinth; photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexposée.
Two rooms of the art museum; photos © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexposées.
Maurizio Bottoni, Memento Mori (Vanitas), 1950.
A room with (on the left) a collection of portraits of Tullio Pericoli of famous international writers appearing in the publications of Franco Maria Ricci; right: magazines and books edited by Ricci, also famous for the bimonthly art magazine FMR; photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexposée.
The “Sala Calvino” meeting room also contains a beautiful wooden bookcase designed by the neoclassical architect Rodolfo Vantini in 1844; photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexposée.