Stepping inside the gates of the Tarot Gardens is like leaving Tuscany and walking into an artistic kaleidoscope. Here, in the scrubby hills near Capalbio, artist Niki de Saint Phalle unleashed her imagination in an explosion of colorful whimsy.

The Tarot Garden, or Giardino dei Tarocchi in Italian, is an open-air art exhibition based on the 22 representations on the tarot cards. The sculptures are larger than life, and are interactive. You can climb on them, go inside them, and walk around them. In fact, they are so large that one became the artist’s home while she brought her vision to life. They are meant to be played with. Her masterpieces are vibrant mosaic-covered sculptures meant to represent the gamut of life experience, personality and self-awareness. There are busty females flouncing in a fountain, a wall of skulls, a bleeding heart, a chapel dedicated to the black Madonna, lovers and towers and a forest of columns, all symbolically depicting the human experience.

The sculptural structures were built of welded iron and steel by the artist’s husband, artist Jean Tinguely, along with local workers. The garden highlights the natural landscape, where there are quite coves of tranquility, and fountains to frolic in. And everywhere is the imagination of its extraordinary creator, Niki de Saint Phalle, who fashioned this garden as a labor of love, on land gifted to her by friends as a place to bring man and nature together.

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