What would you do if you sank your entire life savings into farmland that turned out to be unable to grow your crops? What if you were far from your homeland and family? What if the summer was blisteringly hot?
If you were Baldassare Forestiere, you’d begin digging. Forestiere remembered helping to dig his family’s cellars in Sicily. He remembered how much cooler it can be underground. He hand-dug a network of tunnels and rooms throughout 10 acres of hard pan over the course of more than 40 years, thus creating the Forstiere Underground Gardens.
The underground complex is amazing! Forestiere carved the ceiling of each room in a dome to create air circulation. In a time before air conditioning, there was a light breeze in every room.
You’ll begin your tour by sitting under the grape arbors outside the main entrance until your tour group is formed.
From there, you’ll enjoy a short lecture explaining the site’s history in what was meant to be the grand ballroom. Ballroom? Yep, Forstiere had grand designs of making the site into a day spa where the locals would pay to get relief from the scorching sun. We visited in June and the temperatures were already above 90 F. I can well imagine how popular his caverns were at the turn of the century.
The rooms flow from one to the next with almost no doors to get in the way. In fact, Forestiere carved several rooms to create direct lines of sight across the complex. Ask your tour guide about the lines of sight to the waterfall room in particular.
In each courtyard, you will find a variety of citrus trees and grape vines. As Forestiere excavated underground, he used the soil to create areas where his precious citrus trees could grow despite the hard pan earth that would typically crush their roots.
Several of the rooms are furnished with Forestiere’s own personal possessions. The site is still owned by his surviving family members, and they’re maintained items, such as his cooking stove, radio, and tables.
Looking for more road trip? Click here for the list of posts from my 2017 Oregon road trip.