July 10, 2023

Nicola di Cesare, Giardino Roccioso / Rock Garden

images are screenprints from the two videos in the documentation

In 1981 Nicola di Cesare started to create an art environment in the Italian town of Grosio, a municipality with about 4800 inhabitants in the far north of Italy, near it's border with Switzerland.

The creation has risen on a mountainside, located behind di Cesare's house and is generally referred to as Giardino Roccioso (Rock Garden)

view on the Rock Garden from below

Life and works

Nicola di Cesare was born in 1950 in Pizzoferrato, a municipality in central Italy. 

After primary school he had various jobs, including one with a marquise, who had a summer residence in Grosio. Every summer he travelled to that place in the north to do all kinds of chores. He also worked in Switzerland as a cook and a railway worker.

view from the Rock Garden on Grosio

In a shop in Grozio in the 1970s he met Domenica Lucia. They fell in love, married and settled in a house along the northern edge of Grosio near the slope of a mountain in the Rhaetian Alps.

In 1981, behind his house, at the spot where the slope begins, he built a small wall which he decorated with mosaics. This was the  start of a project he is still working on in 2023, when this article is published,.

Because he is a modest man, di Cesare did not give the project a name, he even avoided this. Currently, the name Giardino Roccioso (Rock Garden) is quite commonly used.

In the publicity surrounding this art environment, di Cesare is also referred to as the Gaudi of Grosio, but it may be noted that di Cesare was not familiar with Gaudi's work and -apart from his few jobs in nearby Switzerland- he had never traveled abroad.

Like so many non-professional artists who have created an art environment, Nicola di Cesaree had no prior plan. When the wall with mosaic near his house was ready, as if it were the most natural thing to do, he began to transform the mountainside behind the house with all kinds of creations. 

This included the arrangement of a number of structural provisions, such as stairs that lead upwards and paths to walk past the decorative items.. 

The images above show how beautifully those stairs (with a total of 207 steps) are integrated into the whole of decorations applied to the slope of the mountain.

These paths and stairs lead along another architectural element that characterizes this art environment. Niches have been made in the mountain wall in which decorative elements have been incorporated, mostly pots of considerable size, made by di Cesare himself or found on the site of the municipal waste processing.

As an aside, it may be noted that di Cesare had a good relationship with the local waste management staff. They kept all kinds of items that might come in handy in the art environment and di Cesare was rather happy about that.

The images above give an impression of the fencing along the paths, which often have a creative look and feature arrangements of pots and colorful decorations.

It should be noted that these gates are not in place in all areas and that in comments on tourist websites visitors are advised to hold children's hands during a visit. Municipal authorities have also expressed their concern about the level of protection for visitors. 

A sign at the entrance to the site reminds those visitors of their own responsibility in this regard.

example of a mosaic creation

In addition to decoration with all kinds of items found on the landfill, such as vases, old ceramic plates and mirrors, in particular the multicolored mosaics added by di Cesare on the rock wall emphasize the creative character of this art environment. 

These mosaic creations often consist of small pieces of stone, which are pushed into a layer of cement in the shape of the intended image.

An image of the heart has been applied in many places in the mosaics, perhaps an expression of the feeling that predominates with di Cesare when creating the site. He also does this by applying all kinds of inscriptions that reflect his feelings. as well as by adding various dates that indicate when a certain part of the decorations was ready.

Although the creation of this art environment has been underway since 1981 and a large part had already been realized around the turn of the century, the site did not gain publicity until the early 2020s, particularly after the COVID period. 

In the first months of 2023, numerous messages about the art environment appeared on the internet. Some more substantive articles, published in these months,  have been selected in the documentation below. 

The videos in the documentation also date from the first months of 2023.

* Article by Sabino Maria Frassa (September 2022) on website Linkiesta
* Article by Romina Vinci (June 2023) on website Spazio 50
* On Facebook a group about Grosio with on April 21, 2019, a large series of photos by Pim Stefano

* Video (8'44", YouTube, April 2023) from the series of travelogues by Beatrice and Stefano

* Video (7'29", YouTube, May 2023) by Tele Paolo67 

Nicola di Cesare
Giardino Roccioso
via Rovaschiera
Grosio, Lombardia, Italia
visitors welcome
Google Maps with more than 1500 photos

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