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My mom called me the other day to tell me about this Underworld-ish place she suddenly remembered: the Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno, California.

A Sicilian immigrant almost a century ago hand-carved rooms and passageways in the hardpan beneath the thin farmland soil, and used it as a living space, a cool refuge from the hot California summer sun. Down there he also planted several fruit trees that could receive sunlight through skylight-type openings above. Fruit trees underground, people! It's my Underworld! It's even designed after the ancient Roman catacombs, so, properly Mediterranean.


Amusing addendum: my mom lived in Fresno in her teen years, and found out about this place when she was out with some friends one night. The guys said to the girls, "We're going to show you this cool place, but you have to tell NO ONE." At the time, the Underground Gardens were just fenced-off territory with "no trespassing" signs around it, so they had to sneak in with flashlights. Apparently most people in the city had no idea it was out there; you can't see much from ground level.

So my mom was late getting home after exploring the place, and her parents demanded to know where she'd been and why she hadn't called. (This was the 1950s, well before cell phones.) She finally broke down and told them about it, begging them not to get anyone in trouble. Her dad (my grandfather) declared, "Daughter, I sell real estate insurance. I know every square foot of this area, and I know there is no such place. Where were you REALLY?"

And that forever remained his final word on it. He never believed her. (He died more than 20 years ago.) But now you can tour the gardens, which really do exist! :)

http://www.undergroundgardens.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forestiere_Underground_Gardens

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
rachel2205
May. 26th, 2016 07:49 pm (UTC)
Beautiful photos! That's a cool story about your mom. I could imagine it being the start of a coming-of-age adventure - night visit to a secret garden.
mollyringle
May. 27th, 2016 12:28 am (UTC)
Ha, yes! Or the beginning of a horror story. They're lucky they survived. ;)
archaeologist_d
May. 26th, 2016 08:43 pm (UTC)
Wow, great photos. What an interesting place! Love the story about your mom.
mollyringle
May. 27th, 2016 12:29 am (UTC)
Cool looking place, isn't it? I should add the photos aren't mine or my mom's; they're from elsewhere, via Google. But I'd like to visit there if I'm ever in the area!
peripety
May. 27th, 2016 02:54 pm (UTC)
Wow, what an incredible place!
mollyringle
May. 27th, 2016 06:38 pm (UTC)
Isn't it? Now I kind of want to go visit!
abbiewilliams
May. 27th, 2016 04:30 pm (UTC)
Oh, I could not love this post more. You must plan a visit in the near future. Can you imagine spending the night there, drinking wine, eating olives and pomegranates...
mollyringle
May. 27th, 2016 06:40 pm (UTC)
I know; they should rent out rooms, hotel style! I'd go for that.
For the most part, CA's Central Valley (where Fresno's located) is a big, flat, dry, hot boring stretch. It's pretty much the worst thing in California. But this place does look cool! And you would love (as I do, except on super-hot days) the Gold Rush towns up in the foothills, edging out of the valley and getting up toward the Sierra. Much Old West storefront stuff still around. :)

Edited at 2016-05-27 06:41 pm (UTC)
archersangel
May. 29th, 2016 01:56 am (UTC)
places that are really underworld like are like hang son doong cave in vietnam;
http://www.sciencealert.com/watch-incredible-drone-footage-of-the-world-s-largest-cave

no fruit trees that i know of.
mollyringle
May. 31st, 2016 01:36 am (UTC)
Still, far greener under there than I would expect! Wow, gorgeous. Someday I will get into more of the world's proper caves...
pathvain_aelien
May. 31st, 2016 04:44 am (UTC)
Those pictures are beautiful!
mollyringle
Jun. 1st, 2016 06:12 pm (UTC)
Aren't they? They're not mine, of course, but they do make me want to visit there.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )