Labirinto della Masone – Art museum with world’s largest maze
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The Labirinto della Masone (Labyrinth of the Mansion) in Fontanellato, a small town near the city of Parma in Northern Italy, is a privately-owned museum that also includes the world’s largest maze.
Above: the central courtyard of the Labirinto della Masone art center in Fontanellato, Italy. Photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit.
Also known as Labirinto di Franco Maria Ricci, the Labirinto della Masone was founded by Italian publisher and art collector Franco Maria Ricci (1937-2020) on the outskirts of Fontanellato, a town about 20 kilometers / 12 miles west of Parma. The idea to create the center and to include in it the world’s largest maze originated from an idea that Argentinian writer Jorge Louis Borges proposed to Ricci in the 1980s.
Opened to the public in 2015, the center comprises various buildings – which accommodate the Franco Maria Ricci Foundation, a permanent art gallery, rooms for special exhibitions, a cafe, a restaurant, a library, and several spaces for meetings and events – and a park with the 8-hectare bamboo labyrinth from which the center takes its name.
The red-brick buildings of the Labiritno della Masone architectural complex, designed by 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 complex, organized around two large porticoed courtyards, also includes a panoramic tower and a pyramid-shaped construction whose design is evidently reminiscent of Bullée’s never-built Cenotaph for Turenne.
The architecture of the Labirinto della Masone, designed by Pier Carlo Bontempi, is inspired by iconic projects by 18th-century Neoclassical architects, such as the pyramid-shaped Cenotaph for Turenne by Étienne-Louis Boullée; photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit.
Designed by landscape architect Davide Dutto is, as mentioned, the world’s largest maze (though possibly, not the largest labyrinth. The difference between a maze and a labyrinth is that the former has many branches while the latter has not).
The maze occupies an area of 8 hectares /19.7 acres and consists of about 200,000 plants of bamboo of twenty different species.
Several art installations, made of bamboo as well, were installed in the maze at the time of my visit. The visit to the maze requires from one hour to two hours, depending on how quickly you get the path to the exit. In case of emergency, it is possible to call the staff by phone to get assistance or be rescued.
Labirinto della Masone, aerial view; the footprint of the maze echoes that of Renaissance ideal cities like Palmanova in northeastern Italy; image courtesy of Fondazione Franco Maria Ricci.
The art museum
The Labirinto della Masone center also features the private art collection of Franco Maria Ricci. On view at the second floor of the main building, the collection comprises about 500 artworks – mostly paintings, sculptures, and objects of decorative arts – made between the 16h and the 20th century, with a strong focus on Mannerist, Baroque and Neoclassical art.
An interior view of the museum; photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit.
The program of the Labirinto della Masone includes temporary exhibitions, meetings, conferences, talks, cooking lessons, theatrical performances, music concerts, and special events.
A view of the bamboo maze from the panoramic tower; photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit.
The maze paths are 3 kilometers / 1.9 miles long, in total; photo © Federica Lusiardi/ Inexhibit.
The labyrinth is composed of twenty species of bamboo; among them, Phyllostachys vivax “Aureocaulis” is a giant bamboo that can reach a height of 15 meters / 49 feet. Photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit.
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 / Inexhibit.
The sculptural installation “Interlocked” by Gunjan Tyagi; photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit.
The exit of the labyrinth; photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit.
Two rooms of the art museum; photos © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit.
Maurizio Bottoni, Memento Mori (Vanitas), 1950.
A room with (on the left) a collection of portraits by Tullio Pericoli of famed international writers featured on Franco Maria Ricci’s publications; on the right: magazines and books published by Ricci, including many issues of the famous bi-monthly art magazine FMR; photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit.
The “Sala Calvino” meeting room also contains a beautiful wooden library designed by neoclassical architect Rodolfo Vantini in 1844; photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit.
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