Forestiere Underground Gardens

5021 West Shaw Avenue


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.


Alejandro Longoria

Friday, Oct. 20, 2017

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.

Misha Metrikin

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

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.

Kristin Dobbins

Monday, Aug. 14, 2017

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!

Loni Reneau

Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017

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.

Jerrie Bacigalupi

Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017

This is truly a hidden gem of Fresno. Tour guide Cami was knowledgeable & fun. I would highly recommend this to all.