Ever heard someone say there's nothing to do in Fresno? Then you should tell them to check out the Forestiere Underground Gardens! Whether there's triple digit weather, or a nice cool Spring day, the gardens are a great place to be a tourist in your own city.
Located on Shaw between 99 and Golden State, the Forestiere Underground Gardens incorporate the best features of any local adventure: exploration, history, and beauty!
The history of the gardens is fascinating. They were created over the course of 40 years by an Italian-American immigrant named Baldassare Forestiere who settled in the Central Valley with the hopes of building his own citrus empire. The land upon which the gardens sit is just a portion of his original 80 acre property that he bought back in 1905 for just $80. After finding out that the soil on his land was nothing but hardpan, his plans were put on hold.
How did the gardens come about? Baldassare found the insane summer heat of the Valley unbearable, and wanted to find a way to escape it. After years of digging subway tunnels on the east cost, he remembered that it always felt much cooler underground. He found a way through the hardpan, and ended up digging out space for his entire living space underground.
The digging didn't stop there though. He heard from his visitors that they liked the cooler feeling of being underground, and so he decided to create some courtyards for them to hang out in. Then the idea dawned on him: maybe he could create a community spot for people in Fresno to come and gather to escape the heat.
Over the course of 40 years he dug passageways, courtyards, and more into about 20 acres of his property.
More than 100 years later, we have an amazing historical spot that still serves Baldassare's purpose for it.
When visiting the gardens, you can get a full tour and all the stories about the creation of the gardens while you explore the passageways, courtyards, cellars, rooms, and even ballroom spaces that Baldassare dug out. Or, if you're feeling independent you can do a self-guided tour and explore the place on your own.
Either way, it's an amazing creation right here in the town we all live in!
It may be considered a historical landmark, but it's also a beautiful integration of nature and art. Beyond creating a place for people to gather and explore, Baldassare's legacy lives on in the uniqueness of his creation. Painting is art on canvas, sculpture is art in material, and the Forestiere Gardens are art carved into the earth itself.
Right now, the gardens are closed, but they are opening again on June 15th. You'll be able to make reservations for guided tours, and self-guided tours will be first come first served. They will only take up to 50% normal capacity due to precautions against Coronavirus.
At some point in the near future they are also planning to open back up the ballroom area for various local functions like wine tastings and live music.
You can make reservations or find out more on their website, or visit them on social media.
The Forestiere Underground Gardens prove there's hidden gems in the Valley. Sometimes you just have to look underground.
So get out there and #explore559!