The labyrinth of Donnafugata Castle
How good are you at finding your way out?
What it is and where it is
Heck, we've been here before! It didn't look that hard from the outside. I want to get there before the others at the end, it's still a race! We are in a fascinating and evocative place: the stone labyrinth of the park of an aristocratic mansion, the Donnafugata Castle. The palace is splendid, full of rooms, decorations and furniture of great artistic value, and after admiring its wonders with our mouths open, we move on to its park and, above all, its labyrinth! Here, we have the time of our lives chasing each other and looking for the exit in this maze of stone walls, passages, turns and dead ends! Today as in centuries past, getting lost in the labyrinth represents a moment of escape, a parenthesis in which to enjoy the outdoors and why not, seek some peace and self. What is certain is that the walls test our sense of direction, and reaching the center of the structure is no easy challenge... That's what the stone soldier guarding the entrance wanted to tell us!
Why it's special
The most classic labyrinths are made of boxwood, an evergreen plant that is easy to care for and shape into desired forms. Here in the grounds of Donnafugata Castle, however, the labyrinth is made of low walls. There are two currents of thought about this: those who want it made with the dry stone wall technique, and those who argue that the use of mortar, though minimal, does not allow this labyrinth to be recognized as a traditional and characteristic dry stone construction. Another peculiarity of this labyrinth is its shape: instead of square or circular, we find ourselves wandering inside a trapezoid, almost certainly inspired by the labyrinth at Hampton Court, near London. A truly atypical place, made to amaze even the most experienced.
A bit of history
To date, there is no record of either an actual design or studies concerning the construction of the park, including the labyrinth. It is therefore thought that each owner of the Castle between the 1800s and 1900s added some element dear to him. What we do know is that it was Baron Corrado Arezzo, who requested the creation of tricks and traps to surprise his guests. The labyrinth as we see it today is not exactly as it was originally: the walls were lined with rose hedges, which obstructed the view in finding the exit route and made climbing and cheating impossible. These hedges over time fell victim to neglect and abandonment. When the City of Ragusa bought the property and began restoration, there were few and scant original plants left, hence the decision to leave the pathways clean and free of vegetation. A winning choice, making the Donnafugata labyrinth one of the few examples in Italy of stone labyrinths.
In 2015, Salma Hayek wandered around the labyrinth playing the role of the Queen of Selvascura, a character from one of the episodes told in Matteo Garrone's film "Il racconto dei racconti."
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