Tour de Fresno: Forestiere Underground Gardens
by Rainbow Bobbins
Me and Ma’s Epic Tour de Fresno included a trip to one of the (literally) coolest places to go in Fresno — Forestiere Underground Gardens. Built by Sicilian immigrant, Baldassare Forestiere, the Underground Gardens were carved out of Fresno hard-pan by an incredibly hardworking day laborer who was a skilled, self-taught engineer and horticulturalist. Baldassare started digging into Fresno in the early 1900s to create a home. By 1923 he had dug out over 10 acres of land and turned it into a maze of an underground complex that was engineered to be 10 degrees cooler in summer and warmer in winter. The garden/home is a study in self-sufficiency. Water holding chambers fed the bathing quarters, a fish pond and the fruit trees that were planted below ground and grew up through skylights. Although the walls were dirt, the complex was not without a ballroom. In his spare time, Baldassare grafted trees so different kinds of fruit grew on one tree. A devout catholic, he often designed his different living chambers with themes of 3 – representing the holy trinity. All of this was created after getting off work as a day laborer. In Fresno. In 100 degree heat. The guy is a badass. From the surface, Forestiere Undgerground Gardens is unassuming. Swallowed by Fresno sprawl, the home and gardens are now situated on a busy road and rubs shoulders with Burger King, McDonalds and In and Out Burger. I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area — the place is amazing and a true testimony to what people can accomplish when they get a serious hair up their ass.