Fresno is California’s fifth largest city. It is located right in the heart of the beautiful San Joaquin Valley. Fresno was established in 1856 after the California Gold Rush and is named after the ash trees that can be found along the San Joaquin River. The city’s climate is mild with dry and hot summers and moist winters which attracts numerous people because below-freezing temperatures are pretty rare here. One of the best-kept secrets around are the City of Fresno Forestiere Underground Gardens.
The Forestiere Underground Gardens consist of a hand-built impressive network of underground passageways, courtyards, and rooms that remind visitors of ancient catacombs. This was the underground home of a self-taught visionary artist and builder originally from Sicily, Italy, by the name of Baldassare Forestiere.
You can just get off California 99 and visit this over 90-year-old unusual, unique, and beautiful place filled with shrubs, fruit producing trees, and vines that are growing here underground. The underground gardens feature great ancient Roman architecture such as vaults, arches, and walls built from stone. There’s an unusual underground micro-climate and the temperatures here may differ some 10 to 30 degrees from the outside temperatures.
The Underground Gardens is a highly interesting tourist attraction. Baldassare Forestiere left his hometown in Sicily to arrived in the U.S. in 1901 and he vigorously started to dig these underground gardens, grottos, and patios. All of the areas were created without any plan and all the rooms and spaces were designed in the process of the work. Forestiere continued his work for more than forty years to produce the amazing creations we can admire today. You can marvel at many beautiful fruit trees, including grapefruits, lemons, and oranges.
When Baldassare Forestiere started out on this immense work in the early 1900s, he acquired a vast piece of land that was considered useless farmland and turned it into this vast network of underground tunnels, courtyards, and rooms as a sort of subterranean, Mediterranean escape from Central Valley’s sweltering summer heat. See also this post about the rich history of the City of Fresno.
Forestiere used only picks, shovels, and some other hand tools and he became so inspired that he continued to excavate the area for more than forty years. He went up to 25 feet deep underground in the area that spans more than 10 acres and he started to grow grapevines and fruit trees in the underground areas that still thrive today.
Visitors from all around the globe come here to tour through Forestiere’s amazing underground passageways, grottos, and rooms and although Baldassare never opened his Mediterranean dream resort officially, it may be well possible that he would be highly thrilled and honored by the tens of thousands of visitors that marvel at his impressive life’s work today! Check out also this article about Quality of Life Programs in the Fresno area.
Visitors can access this historic site only through a 1 hour-long walking tour while accompanied by an experienced tour guide. They will learn all about the work and life of Forestiere, the visionary immigrant and citrus grower from Sicily, and marvel at his grandest creations, reminiscent of catacombs from ancient times. Some of the trees and vines are more than 90 years old! Fresno City College is actively involved in preserving this historic site for future generations.
The grounds of this museum need to be dry enough to make walking tours possible so when a rainstorm has hit the area, tours may be canceled without prior notice. If visitors come during the hot summer months, they should be aware that the underground rooms can get very cool. There is no underground air conditioning and the temperatures could well be some 10 to 30 cooler than the outside air, and these conditions might get uncomfortable for individuals with specific medical conditions.
When you visit, for example, in May, be sure to bring a sweater or jacket as it can get pretty chilly underground. The Fresno Forestiere Underground Gardens are an awesome and wonderful place to visit. This is truly a surprise and a marvel and it is a phenomenon how this site was ever built!