FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE24) — Along Shaw Avenue near Highway 99 in Fresno, you see a sign that’s above ground advertising an adventure that’s underground.
Through rows of citrus trees and grapevines, you make your way downstairs into the Forestiere Underground Gardens.
This was the home of its founder Baldassare Forestiere. Building an underground oasis was not his original plan.
Rock-solid surface prevented him from planting crops, so with a few hand tools and advantage technology at the time known as the Fresno Scraper he carved out a new plan.
“He attached it to a couple of mules and that helped haul out the dirt but everything was simple hand tools. He couldn’t afford to dynamite out the hard pan like a lot of other farmers were doing in the Valley at that time,” said operations manager Cami Cipolla.
After 40 years, Forestiere created a home with bedrooms, a kitchen, and even a grand ballroom.
He soon learned living underground had some cool advantages.
As you walk into the Underground Gardens you drop about 10 feet below ground and you immediately feel the cooler temperatures.
Nearly 75 years after his death, the labor and love of Forestiere is catching the attention of tourists from around California and across the country.
“I heard underground gardens and was kind of expecting to see some flowers, more a greenhouse sort of place. But coming in and seeing the home and all of the hand construction, it was really impressive to me, as well as all of the agriculture and all the grafting of the trees,” said Emma Dhimitri.
Forestiere was able to plant a few trees underground that still stand and produce fresh fruit to this day.