Nestled between busy streets and apartment buildings in the Tibidabo region of Barcelona remains a mysterious garden complex once owned by the eccentric, Dr Josep Altimira – a Freemason stock market investor dubbed the ‘Count of Monte Cristo’ for his fabulous wealth.
Built around the 1860s, the gardens were part of a much larger plot consisting of a huge country mansion – perched above the gardens – and, linked directly to the home of Dr Josep, an underground hypostyle hall – certainly the garden’s most notable architectural feature – consisting of 36 grand Romanesque style sandstone columns.
Renowned for his love of extravagant parties, Dr Josep was said to have an Orangutan that served drinks to his guests and, occasionally, was known to the flood the halls to the subterranean layer so that he and his friends could paddle their boats between the columns.
The lush green grounds that we see today are only a small part of what was once a much larger estate. There was a statue of the Roman God, Mercury, today preserved in the beautiful Casa Gari in Argentona, as well as a number of ponds that Altimira filled with Sardines and had fresh seawater delivered daily to keep alive.
As well as a stone bridge, there’s also a wooden-paved steel-suspension bridge, a copy of the one designed by John Roebling for Niagara Falls.
Today, the gardens have a romantic, peaceful, yet mysterious feel about them, and the thick green vegetation that surrounds you evokes a magical forest feeling that’s lost on you in more traditional style parks.
Park address – Jardins de Ca n’Altimira, Carrer de Maó, 13, 08022 Barcelona