Off to See Pinocchio


OK, this outing isn’t really about Pinocchio,  although that’s why most people go to Collodi, a small village about an hour’s drive north-west of Lucca.   They go to visit Il Parco di Pinocchio.  An amusement park on the outskirts of the village.  From the size of the parking lot, it must be enormous.  According to the park website, over 7 million people have visited since it opened in 1956.  Perhaps not all that surprising when you consider that Le Avventure di Pinocchio is believed to be one of the world’s most translated books – second only to the Bible.

Sculptures next to the parking lot.

Sculptures next to the parking lot.

And what, you might ask, does Collodi have to do with Pinocchio?  For a simple children’s story, ‘The Adventures of Pinocchio’ has generated a virtual storm of controversy and debate since it was first published in 1881.   Have a look at the web. Even a cursory glance will lead you to a astonishing number of sites written by seemingly reputable academics, scientists and authors.

A popular topic is ‘The Pinocchio Effect’.  We all know what happened to Pinocchio’s nose every time he told a lie.  Well, using thermograph imaging, scientists have shown that when we are under stress – which, unless you are a pathological liar, is a normal consequence of telling a lie – there is “an increase in the temperature around the nose and in the orbital muscle in the inner corner of the eye.”  Really?!  Our noses heat up when we tell a lie!

Amidst all the controversy, mercifully there is one point everyone seems to agree on. The story is set in a village in the Tuscany countryside.  But – that village is not Collodi.

The Collodi connection comes from the decision of Carlo Lorenzini, the author, to publish his tale under the pseudonym Carlo Collodi.  In honour of the birthplace of his beloved mother.

Brightly painted houses along an alley nearby.

Brightly painted houses along an alley nearby.

And why am I going to Collodi?  To visit the Giardino Storico Garzoni.   From what I’ve read, it doesn’t sound much different from other gardens I’ve visited.  Except for one thing – the layout.

View of Villa Garzoni from the parking lot.

View of Villa Garzoni from the parking lot.

The Garzonis were an affluent family from Pescia, a Tuscan town made prosperous for years by silkworms, but whose bad luck it was to be located on the border between the Republics of Florence and Lucca.  After one of many conflicts that plagued the town during the Middle Ages, the Garzoni property was confiscated by the Florentines.

The Garzoni’s resettled in Collodi, as close as possible to their old property, but safe from their enemies.  They strategically located their new home on the foundations of a medieval castle perched on top of a cliff.

Collodi - Fra Storia e fiaba (Between History and Fable)

A helicopter would come in handy for a shot that would give a better sense of the lay of the land,
but for now a plaque in the old village will have to do.

Once the new castle was built, and attack was no longer a threat, they realized they had another problem.  The village huddled up the ridge behind the castle and there was no room for a garden.

So they built a bridge over the gorge between the ridge the villa was on and the neighbouring ridge and started work on the garden over there.  170 years later it was finished.


First view of the garden.


I had never seen a parterre planted with petunias and poppies. Lovely.


Off to the side a nice set-up for the ducks and swans.

Beyond the pond was the Viale delle Palme, a 20th century addition.

Beyond the pond was the Viale delle Palme.  The palm trees struck me as somehow incongruous.
I found out later they were a 20th century introduction.


Definitely Baroque.


I only saw one gardener during my two-hour visit.



A rather weary-looking Neptune in the requisite grotto.


For some reason terracotta monkeys decorate the balustrade.


It’s not what you look at. It’s what you see.

There is so much going on in most Italian gardens that occasionally it isn’t until I get home and put the photos up on my computer that I see something I had totally missed at the time.  There was something about this statue that caught my attention as I passed by, but I attributed it to the typically dramatic Baroque pose.  I hadn’t even noticed the legs and the cloven hooves.


For a change, River Goddesses.


As in other gardens, they are meant to symbolize friendship between neighbouring power bases.
In this case the Arno of Florence and the Serchio of Lucca.

Fame, blowing her own trumpet.

Fame, blowing her own trumpet.

Behind the statue was a small shed-like structure.  There used to be two elaborately decorated marble bathhouses, where male and female bathers whiled away hot summer afternoons, more or less hidden behind screens, while an orchestra played nearby.


Who can resist an open gate?

There were no signs.  No gardeners.  No other visitors.  Was this the bridge that connected the two ridges?


In this otherwise peaceful glen, the usual mayhem that Renaissance and
Baroque garden designers alike seemed to have had a great fondness for.



I know it looks quite lovely, but by the time I got to the bamboo grove,
the utter silence and absence of any other living creature was beginning to spook me.


And then I came to another gate.  This one was locked.


Determined to visit the castle, I made my way back down the garden ridge and then climbed up the castle ridge.
I never thought to ask if the castle was open to visitors.


It is not. This is as close as I could get.

As I made my way back to the car another of the topics related to Pinocchio that I’d come across came to mind.  It’s called ‘The Pinocchio Paradox’.  It has to do with what would have happened if Pinocchio had said, “My nose grows now.”  At first glance this may seem a rather innocuous statement.  Something any 11-year old might come up with.  But this 11 year-old was the daughter of an Australian Professor of the Philosophy of Logic and her little sentence has generated a spirited and highly erudite discussion.

The problem arises if you start to give her statement even the tiniest bit of attention. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself thinking things like – If Pinocchio says these words and his nose doesn’t grow, he must be telling a lie.  But if he is telling a lie his nose will grow.  And if he is telling the truth his nose won’t grow, which means that he was telling a lie…

By the time I reached the car my brain was in imminent danger of dissolving into a useless mush.   But I was soon to be freed from the philosophical morass.   Pinocchio and his nose issues were no match for the challenges of driving in Italy.