Villa Palagonia – Bagheria, Italy - Atlas Obscura
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Bagheria, Italy

Villa Palagonia

A collection of grotesques lines the walls of this Italian villa. 

Just outside of Palermo, in a town known more for its mafia connections than artistic contributions, you’ll find an 18th century Italian villa with walls covered in grotesque monsters, and interiors with antique mirror ceilings.

Though currently open to the public, the villa is in a dilapidated state of repair. There are a few internal rooms open, all empty, without furniture but still maintaining the wall decorations of the era. In the main “Gallery of Mirrors”, you’ll find an incredible ceiling of antique mirrors, which have been painted over in the corners with majestic birds and coats of arms.

The gardens are the real attraction here, though not for the flora and fauna you find within it. The exterior garden walls, created by Francesco Ferdinando II Gravina, Prince of Palagonia, in 1749, are literally crawling with grotesque half man-half beasts, carved from Tufa stone, each one leering menacingly down at you. These creatures of fantasy became well-known in the era of the “Grand Tour” and attracted visitors such as Goethe, Alexander Dumas and later, surrealist artists such as Andre Breton.

The villa also has a few cameos in Tornatore’s “Baaria”, the director’s homage to his hometown pre and post WWII.