Forestiere Underground Gardens

5021 West Shaw Avenue
Fresno, CA 93650



The Underground Gardens are the life-long devotion and hobby of Baldassare Forestiere (1879-1946), a Siciliani mmigrant who came to America in 1901 to escape the 

iron rule of his wealthy father and pursue his own 

dreams.  The Gardens are a subterranean complex of 

patios, grottos, and garden courts interconnecting with 

passageways that encircle the living quarters of the self-

taught artist and builder who sought to escape the brutal 

heat of Fresno summers.

Forestiere patterned his underground world after the 

ancient catacombs, which he so admired as a boy. 

Arches and passageways dominate the underground 

landscape while the stonework provides stability and 

beauty.  But unlike the dark catacombs that protected the 

remnants of the lifeless, Forestiere designed well-lit 

courtyards and grottos to bring forth the radiance and 

vitality of life.

No plans were put on paper; each room and 

passageway originated in Forestiere’s mind as he 

worked.  With the simple tools of a farmer—a pick, a 

shovel, and a wheelbarrow—the young immigrant dug, 

chipped, and carved the unforgiving hardpan land for 40 

years (1906-1946) in his spare time.  By the time he was 

44 years-old, he had excavated and planted over 10 


But the humble immigrant’s genius did not stop there.  

Incredibly, Forestiere planted multiple varieties of fruit-

bearing plants at different underground levels.  Oranges, 

lemons, grapefruits—many on a single tree—as well as 

more unusual varieties like kumquat, loquat, jujube, 

strawberry, quince, and dates could be easily plucked 

from the surface by simply bending down.  Wine and 

table grapes also grace this sanctuary, and dangle 

lusciously in great clumps every-where---truly an oasis in 

a modern-day desert of pavement.

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