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The largest labyrinth in the world
In northern Italy, near Parma, there is a huge labyrinth, which according to the operator is the largest in the world. An Italian patron of the arts has fulfilled a childhood dream with this million-dollar property. Furthermore, the maze itself is not the only attraction on the eight hectare site.
If you look at aerial photographs of the area surrounding the small town of Fontanellato near Parma, you will quickly spot it: a huge green star, whose interior is criss-crossed by countless parallel lines, stands out from the otherwise small-scale parcelled landscape. What we are looking at here is the biggest labyrinth in the world, which is approximately ten football fields (68 x 105 metres) in size.
The famous Italian designer and publisher Franco Maria Ricci fulfilled a childhood dream with this giant maze. "When I was little, every now and then gypsies came to Parma with their fairground carriages and built a hall of mirrors. That fascinated me a lot," reports the now 82-year-old. Later, as a student of geology, he discovered underground labyrinths during excavations.
Finally, it was his friendship with the blind Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges (+1986) that rekindled his passion for mazes. Borges was famous for his fantastic tales, in which labyrinths are frequently referenced, including the works "Fictions" (1944) and "The Aleph" (1949/1952). He frequently visited Ricci at his estate in Parma. "The trajectories that marked his hesitant steps of a blind man in spaces that were completely simple and familiar to me made me think of the insecurity of those who move between ramifications and mysteries," Ricci explains. And so, first as a pipe dream and then more and more concretely, the idea of creating a labyrinth of one's own was born.
With the help of an architecture student, Ricci drew up the first plans for the world's largest labyrinth in the 1990s. The first sod was turned in 2006, and for almost ten years they worked tirelessly on the completion of the maze, and in spring 2015 the time finally came: the first visitors were let into the labyrinth and were allowed to try and find their own way out.

"My labyrinth is really very big, and it's easy to get lost in it," Franco Maria Ricci says to NEW YORKER News. In fact, this has happened several times before. But, there's no need to be afraid: In case someone can no longer find the exit, there is an emergency number - provided you have a cell phone with you. "Then someone will come and accompany you to the exit," Ricci explains.
The labyrinth is not formed with typical hedge plants, as is usually the case, but with different types of bamboo. This made it much faster than planting boxwood, for example. About 60,000 bamboos were needed to cover the 7 hectare (about 10 football pitches) area with corridors. The costs so far: about 10 million Euros.
However, a visit is not worthwhile just to try the maze. In the manorial building that is located in the middle of the labyrinth, there is an exhibition with the works of Ricci's huge art collection, as well as a library with famous prints and typographies. "This historical collection will of course be completed with all the books published by Franco Maria Ricci during his 50 years of work," the project website says.
Ricci is one of the most famous publishers in Italy. Among other things, he and his publishing house have founded the renowned art magazine FMR, which appears every two months in Italian, German, English, French and Spanish. Ricci also owns several bookstores in Italy. There is also a bookshop on the grounds of the Labyrinth. Furthermore, there is also a restaurant and a shop with local products from the region, and couples can even get married in the pyramid-shaped chapel in the labyrinth. There are also guest rooms where visitors can stay overnight.
Ricci also wants to apply for the Guinness Book of Records, since it is the largest labyrinth in the world. However, since 2018, the coveted position is held by another labyrinth: the Yancheng Dafeng Dream Maze in Yancheng in China, even though it is only about half the size of the Labirinto della Masone in Italy with almost 3.5 hectares.

Address: 125 Strada Masone, Fontanellato, Parma.
Opening hours in summer: Daily from 10.30 to 19 hrs.
Entrance fee: 18 euros per person, 15 euros in a group.