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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Italian creates world's largest maze

Franco Maria Ricci, the publisher behind Luigi Serafini's Codex Seraphinianus, creates seven-hectare maze at Fontanellato

Franco Maria Ricci's maze

An aerial view of Franco Maria Ricci's maze at Fontanellato near Parma. Photograph: Guardian

In a message announcing his retirement to the readers of art magazine FMR, the Italian publisher Franco Maria Ricci wrote: "To whoever asks me why, I shall answer in the same way as Voltaire: 'Laissez-moi cultiver mon jardin.' "

The full import of those words has only now become apparent six years later with the news that the man who published some of the world's most fantastical works ‑ and luxurious volumes ‑ has created its biggest maze. His labyrinth of bamboo hedges at Fontanellato near Parma reportedly covers some seven hectares (17.5 acres), which would make it more than five times larger than the Pineapple Garden Maze on Hawaii, the largest permanent hedge maze in the Guinness Book of Records.

The former publisher said he first confided his ambition to Jorge Luis Borges, who characteristically told him the world's largest maze already existed and was called a desert. The publisher of such flights of the imagination as Luigi Serafini's Codex Seraphinianus, an illustrated encyclopaedia dealing with a parallel world and written in an unintelligible alphabet, Ricci said he had based the design for his enormous labyrinth on mazes depicted in two Roman mosaics.

The maze will open to the public in 2012 when a visitors' centre has been built. Ricci said visitors would be advised to bring mobiles in case they needed help. A journalist from Corriere della Sera, which was given a first glimpse of the maze, recorded that he got lost on the return journey.