Weekend Wander: Forestiere Underground Gardens

Looking for a unique spot to check out this summer? The Forestiere Underground Gardens may be just the place for you.

Located in Fresno, California, the gardens were created and designed starting in the early 1900’s by a man named Baldassare Forestiere. Forestiere was an eager and hard-working immigrant from Sicily who had purchased 80 acres of land in Fresno with hopes of becoming a citrus farmer. Unfortunately, the summer temperatures were quite hot, and what was worse, the land was mostly hardpan, which was impossible to farm.

Stuck with unusable land, but not one to lose hope, Forestiere came up with a new idea. For forty years, he used shovels, pick axes, a wheel barrow, and some mules to carve out and construct an impressive subterranean network of rooms, gardens, courtyards, and hallways with the intention of one day making it a unique Mediterranean-style resort.

Our tour guide explained all of this to us during our hour-long tour of the Gardens. The reverence in her words and the gentleness of her voice carried softly through the quiet underground arches and passageways, as all of us in the tour group marveled at the amazing architectural feat around us. The temperature was noticeably cooler underground (by maybe 10 degrees), adding another fascinating element to this unconventional, yet impressive place.

Forestiere even planted a variety of vines and trees underground, cleverly training them to grow up toward the sunlight via small skylights or open courtyards. A number of them are still alive and even continue to produce fruit.

Readers, there’s nothing quite like running your hand over the smooth trunk of a citrus tree that is over 100 years old. You feel connected to the earth, to history, and to the wonders of life.

In 1946, Baldassare Forestiere passed away from pneumonia. He was 67 years old. While Baldassare’s grand plans for a resort never quite came to fruition, his grand works underground are truly a sight to behold all these years later.

The Forestiere Underground Gardens are an official California Registered Historical Landmark, as well as being listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. Be sure to check out their website for more information: http://www.undergroundgardens.com

As always, thanks for stopping by. โค

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