I’m not sure what is more amazing to me, the fact that I had never been to Forestiere Underground Gardens or that when I surveyed some 100 people only 2 had visited. This is a true hidden gem here in Fresno folks and I urge you to check it out soon!
I had no idea what to expect from my visit to the Forestiere Underground Gardens, I imagined it was what the name said, an underground garden full of fruits, vegetables, flowers and the like. What I found was all that and a whole lot more.
This underground world is patterned after the Sicilian immigrant, Baldassare Forestiere’s native land. Roman arches dominate the underground landscape while the stonework provides stability and beauty. Unlike what one would expect of an underground network of tunnels, rooms and grottos, Forestiere designed it in such manner to allow fresh air and natural light into the spaces.
This 40 year labor of love began in 1906 and as your tour guide will tell you, Mr Forestiere did all this with his own two hands, using only a pick, a shovel, and a wheelbarrow. I struggled the other day digging a dozen or so post holes for a fence, I can’t imagine what it took to dig out three levels of twist, turns, and rooms that spanned over 10 acres of hardpan.
In addition to many creature comforts he designed and built, like an aquarium, I was really impressed by the multiple varieties of fruit-bearing
plants at different underground levels. Lemons, oranges, grapefruits, kumquat, strawberry, quince, and grapes… all still producing fruit for the staff to eat season long.
The tour schedule varies a bit due to weather so I would call first (559-271-0734) but in general you can expect a tour on the hour from 10am till 4pm. If you have a son, daughter, niece, nephew or other young child in your life I would highly recommend bringing him or her with you. Their oohs and aahs are priceless.
Forestiere Underground Gardens is a California Registered Historical Landmark, it is located on the south side of Shaw at 5021 West Shaw Avenue. It is easy to miss so be on the lookout for an old weathered billboard, parking is available curbside.