Forestiere Underground Gardens
The Underground Gardens are the life-long devotion and hobby of Baldassare Forestiere (1879-1946), a Siciliani mmigrant who came to America in 1901 to escape the
iron rule of his wealthy father and pursue his own
dreams. The Gardens are a subterranean complex of
patios, grottos, and garden courts interconnecting with
passageways that encircle the living quarters of the self-
taught artist and builder who sought to escape the brutal
heat of Fresno summers.
Forestiere patterned his underground world after the
ancient catacombs, which he so admired as a boy.
Arches and passageways dominate the underground
landscape while the stonework provides stability and
beauty. But unlike the dark catacombs that protected the
remnants of the lifeless, Forestiere designed well-lit
courtyards and grottos to bring forth the radiance and
vitality of life.
No plans were put on paper; each room and
passageway originated in Forestiere’s mind as he
worked. With the simple tools of a farmer—a pick, a
shovel, and a wheelbarrow—the young immigrant dug,
chipped, and carved the unforgiving hardpan land for 40
years (1906-1946) in his spare time. By the time he was
44 years-old, he had excavated and planted over 10
But the humble immigrant’s genius did not stop there.
Incredibly, Forestiere planted multiple varieties of fruit-
bearing plants at different underground levels. Oranges,
lemons, grapefruits—many on a single tree—as well as
more unusual varieties like kumquat, loquat, jujube,
strawberry, quince, and dates could be easily plucked
from the surface by simply bending down. Wine and
table grapes also grace this sanctuary, and dangle
lusciously in great clumps every-where---truly an oasis in
a modern-day desert of pavement.
A must see for anyone interested in underground living the American way! Wow! It is beautiful, surreal and practical. The time went fast and I wanted to see more! Great for kids or grandparents and in between.
Really neat part of California History. The guy who built this place was living proof that there is not a whole heck of a lot to do in Fresno other than try and escape the heat. The place is awesome however, and the staff is friendly. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and underground cavern have an otherworldly hand crafted feel. It is also tempting to reach for the brightly colored fruit growing on the expertly grafted citrus trees. Make sure to check out this strange part of California history for yourself.
I wouldn't consider this to be a 'garden' necessarily but there are a few trees and plants that the guy planted underground and are nurtured naturally by sunlight coming through holes in the roof of the underground structure. It was a neat tour of an underground home with multiple rooms and some clever ideas built in. Be careful not to miss it because it looks like a dirt lot. Look for the cars parked on the side and follow them until you see the entrance sign!
I had been intending on visiting for quite some time, and today I finally did. The tour was informative, and I was pleasantly surprised with just how extensive the whole thing is. I'd recommend this place to anyone.
This is truly a hidden gem of Fresno. Tour guide Cami was knowledgeable & fun. I would highly recommend this to all.