For a unique glimpse at the hard work and imagination of an immigrant in the early 1900’s, visit Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno. This underground museum is the product of a lifetime hobby and vision of Baldassare Forestiere, an immigrant from Sicily who arrived in the US in 1901.
Forestiere had grown up in his hometown of Filari, Sicily with an admiration for the ancient catacombs nearby. He relocated to Fresno, California to realize his dream as a citrus farmer, where his imagination led him to envision the underground gardens.
With only a wheelbarrow, a pick and a shovel, he worked on his hobby in his spare time for 40 years, ultimately creating a 10-acre garden complex with stone arches, patios and courtyards, planted with fruits of many varieties. The rooms and gardens were all created without a single architectural drawing, as Forestiere used his vision and imagination to build his dream garden.
When selecting plants, he chose the staple citrus fruits and grape varieties, as well as some uncommon fruits such as kumquats, carob, and quince, designed so that fruit could be easily picked from the upper level.
In 1979, the Forestiere Underground Gardens were designated as a California Registered Historical Landmark, and the gardens are also listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. Due to the site’s unique qualities, it is only accessible through guided tours, which provide visitors with a unique perspective of Forestiere’s life and his labor of love.
Tours of the Forestiere Underground Gardens are available from April through November, weather permitting, on a first-come-first-serve basis. Tours begin every 20 to 30 minutes during normal operating hours. I recommend to get there early. Tours last about 60 minutes and require gentle walking and some stair climbing. Visitors in wheelchairs are accommodated on an alternate route when visiting the gardens.
Current tour prices are $19 per person for adults and $9 per person for children, who must be accompanied by an adult. Discounted rates of $17 per person are available for seniors, students, and active duty military.
Forestiere never opened that Mediterranean-inspired resort he envisioned, but the remarkable patchwork of underground homes, grottoes and passageways creates an unforgettable experience for all visitors and reminds us of all what we can accomplish when we work toward our dreams.
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Next, take a relaxing stroll through Woodward Park in Fresno, a gorgeous landscape with breathtaking views and mountain biking courses.