Labyrinth of Masone
BY LIVIA DANESE
In the province of Parma, near the small town of Fontanellato, is the largest labyrinth in the world. The Labirinto della Masone was founded by publisher and art collector Franco Maria Ricci. He and his friend and colleague Jorge Luis Borges fantasized about conceiving a garden with natural winding paths to ideally represent the uncertainties of each man's life.
One can associate the complexity of the world with the intricate shape of a labyrinth, which is a symbol of the perplexity and bewilderment experienced by men who face the unknown.
A labyrinth is traditionally created to confuse and disorient, yet the Labirinto della Masone’s purpose is to distance itself as much as possible from the labyrinth-prison analogy. On the contrary it was created to amaze, surprise and welcome visitors.
Bamboo plants are the undisputed protagonists of the garden: they are light but extremely resistant and soar upwards to surprising heights. Bambusa species are symbolically linked with many values and virtues. In Eastern tradition they metaphorically represent the conscience of upright men who remain steadfast while facing adversities. Furthermore many legends associate bamboo with perseverance and patience: only after developing strong and healthy roots can the plant grow elegantly and abundantly. The Labyrinth is made up of more than 200 000 different species that grow vigorously towards the sky, forming a maze of seemingly indistinguishable paths and dead ends. One can stop in the shade of this evergreen plant along the way, internalizing the bamboo’s symbolic meanings which remind us of the importance of being flexible yet resistant, versatile and patient.
Intricate plays of lights and shadows as well as alternating colours accompany the visitor along a winding, alienating path. It leads to an unusual pyramid-shaped chapel at the centre of the labyrinth, where wider and brighter spaces abruptly spread out. Here the visitor can finally find his bearings and is guided towards the end of the route.
The Labirinto della Masone is a place to visit at least once in a lifetime, not only for the site itself but also for the surrounding countryside. This genuine, real and anachronistic scenery was in fact much loved by photographer Luigi Ghirri.