The Mason Labyrinth

Italian publisher Franco Maria Ricci, inspired by fabulists Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino, built the largest maze in the world.

Mason Labyrinth
Sailko, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As I mentioned in an earlier post (about categories of knowledge), I’m a big fan of Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. Some time in the future I’ll also write about Italo Calvino, an Italian author of rare talent. Well, it turns out that they had a common friend, Franco Maria Ricci. For many years he published a magazine called FMR – supposedly the most beautiful magazine in the world – but in 2002 he sold the magazine to pursue another ambition: maze-crafting.

The maze is a strong theme in Borges’ writing; Labyrinths was even the title of his most famous collection of short stories and essays. In Calvino’s writing mazes are not literally present, but the narratives themselves are labyrinthine puzzles that reward careful pursuit. (Ricci also associated with Umberto Eco, another European author and maze aficionado, and Roland Barthes, the French critic who described the search for meaning as a labyrinth with no goal.)

All this maze-obsession rubbed off on Ricci, and he set about creating the largest maze in the world: the Mason Labyrinth in Fontanellato, Italy. It’s a bamboo maze stretching across 8 hectares, connected to an art museum and assorted conference venues. You can see the layout in the fourth link below. If tourism ever starts back up again I’m definitely going to visit. Alas, the Mason Labyrinth only held the title of largest maze for three years; the title now belongs to a “dream” maze in Yangcheng, China.

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