This tremendous, living maze is called the Labrinto della Masone - translated as the Masone Labyrinth. Its size encompasses a total of 17 acres of land and that's not even the most amazing thing about it... The real shocker is the fact that it's not only the world's largest maze, but it's also the world's largest living maze.

This maze was created with various species of bamboo making it quite unique compared to other hedge mazes that many are used to. Rather than being able to jump a bit to maybe catch a glimpse over the top of the average maze, the Masone Labyrinth makes maze-goers feel as though they're completely encompassed within walls of green bamboo. This makes for quite the intense and authentic maze-like experience as they attempt to work their way through all 17 acres of these tunnels. The maze was created by mastermind Franco Maria Ricci - a publisher, bibliophile, and art collector - in Fontanelllato, Italy, back in the 1980s and is still living and growing to this day.

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The Intricacies Of The Masone Labyrinth

The labyrinth itself is home to more than 20 species of bamboo, all growing together to create the high walls that make up its star-like shape. The reason for the shape is in reference to fortress cities, which are usually star-shaped with a total of eight points. In its essence, this symbolism makes sense for a labyrinth of this size which is somewhat of a fortress in itself - however, this one allows people in a bit easier than it allows them to get out. The maze itself is a brilliant tribute to the bamboo species itself, as it's shown in all its glory both in the way it grows, in its resistance, and its ability to create a zen atmosphere while also building a powerful and unbending structure.

The labyrinth itself is created in a traditional Roman-style but features some of Ricci's trademark changes, such as unexpected dead ends and junctions that seem to lead to a rewarding place, but only help the maze-goer to become more confused as they traverse through its greenery. Some of the alleyways built within the maze are blind alleys, meaning those traversing it have no idea what they're about to stumble into - whether it be a wall or an option to take multiple paths. Additionally, the interior of the maze houses 3,280 yards of tunnels altogether, meaning there are plenty of routes in which to choose... not all of which will be the right ones.

The bamboo used in the labyrinth has the potential to grow up to a towering 17 feet, making this maze seem like more of a labyrinth-like cathedral than an actual maze. Additionally, the bamboo itself is wonderful for the environment as it's pest and disease-free, and does wonders when it comes to absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making it one of the most planet-friendly plant species in the world. With about 25 different species of bamboo plants that make up the maze, it's easy to see why this is such an alluring place for both botany lovers as well as maze lovers. Of the species themselves have come 125,000 bamboo plants in total which make up the maze in its entirety, many hailing from France's Bambouseraie d’Anduze, according to Garden Travel Hub. 

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Ricci is a well-known collector of the arts but has also published his own book, called Labyrinths: The Art of the Maze. In the preface of this book, written by Umberto Eco, he says, "...if the image of the labyrinth has a centuries-old history, this means that for tens of thousands of years human beings have been fascinated by something that somehow spoke to them of the human or cosmic condition. there are endless situations in which it is easy to enter, but hard to exit, and at the first attempt, it seems hard to think of situations where it is difficult to enter but easy to exit."

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This also speaks to the difficulty of the maze itself which has a reputation for being quite the challenge. It's rare that anyone who enters actually makes it out in quick succession, as navigating bamboo is quite different from navigating a hedge maze or a cornfield. The sheer height of the bamboo restricts sunlight which only serves to disorient maze-navigators even further, keeping them from remembering if they've traversed one location already, and making them think twice about the paths they thought they've taken prior. The maze is also home to cultural spaces, restaurants, and a pyramidal chapel, which, according to Garden Travel Hub, speaks to the 'close connection throughout the history of mazes and religious faith.'

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