Walk The Forestiere Underground Gardens

High on my road-trip wish-list is a visit to the Forestiere Underground Gardens  in Fresno, California, a city that can get, as my mother would say, hotter ‘n Hades. This fact was not lost on Baldassare Forestiere, who came to America from Sicily in 1901 and quickly grew nostalgic for his homeland’s climate. He hatched a plan to carve a little bit of heaven into his new backyard. Only the ground was hella hard. For fourty years, he chipped away at that hardpan. The results are nothing short of spectacular: 10 acres of Mediterranian vegetation, cool and cozy living quarters, and a most delightful bathtub situation.

Baldassare: a sophisticated hobbit indeed.

Forestiere Underground Gardens
photo by Sean & Erica via Flickr CC
2007082619.jpg
photo by Andrew Ranta via Flickr CC

“Forestiere planted multiple varieties of fruit-bearing plants at different underground levels. Oranges, lemons, grapefruits—many on a single tree—as well as more unusual varieties like kumquat, loquat, jujube, strawberry, quince, and dates could be easily plucked from the surface by simply bending down. Wine and table grapes also grace this sanctuary, and dangle lusciously in great clumps every-where—truly an oasis in a modern-day desert of pavement.”
– from the Forestiere Underground Gardens website

Underground fruit tree
photo by Sean & Erica via Flickr CC
Grafted orange-lemon trees
photo by Sean & Erica via Flickr CC

“Because he had no formal education in architecture or engineering, Forestiere recalled his personal observations of the ancient Roman architecture of his native country, and his experiences as a subway digger in Boston and New York to guide him.

To build his creation Forestiere used farming tools—picks and shovels, wheelbarrows, and a Fresno scraper pulled by two mules. No dynamite or motorized mechanical methods were used.”
– from the Forestiere Underground Gardens list: “Amazing Facts” 

2007082623.jpg
photo by Andrew Ranta via Flickr CC

“Although Forestiere patterned his work after the ancient catacombs, the Underground Gardens are full of light, with very few dark areas, even at the lowest level. He accomplished this by carving out skylights throughout his underground domain.”
– from the Forestiere Underground Gardens list: “Amazing Facts”

Underground sleeping cove
photo by Sean & Erica via Flickr

Behold: the clawfoot nook!

Forestiere Underground Gardens
photo by Lisa Brettschneider via Flickr CC

“The visions of my mind overwhelm me.”
Baldassare Forestiere

Forestiere Underground Gardens
photo by Lisa Brettschneider via Flickr CC

THE CATCH: The Forestiere Underground Gardens are being threatened by high speed rail plans that could damage or destroy Baldassare’s legacy. Click here to read more and take action. Californians in particular, I’m talking to you.

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