La Casa dei Simboli (The House of Symbols)Bonaria Manca (1925 - 2020)




Tuscania, Lazio, 01017, Italy


Circa 1981 to 2020

Visiting Information

The House of Symbols is now a house museum. To schedule a visit, fill out the contact form on the website.

About the Artist/Site

A native of Orune on the island of Sardinia, at the age of 23 Bonaria Manca emigrated with her large family of shepherds to Tuscania, in the heartland of ancient Etruria. Here she devoted herself to the countryside and animals, working as a shepherdess herself, an activity which she had been prohibited from doing in her homeland. During her free time she wove and embroidered robes and tapestries, improvising songs in Italian and in the Sardinian dialect.

As the years passed, and particularly after the deaths of some members of her family and her separation from her husband (whom she had married in 1968, but who could not abide by her independent ways), around 1981 Manca began to experiment with oil painting and mosaics, intertwining her childhood memories and visions into her work. Soon, the house began to be filled up with bright paintings populated by humans, animals, and fantasy figures. Beginning in 1997 she also painted the interior walls and ceilings of her home with oil and chalk; living alone, it became a total intervention that has completely taken over the space.  Here are included glimpses of rural life, totemic figures, and biblical scenes; she takes great care in the detail of the setup of the rooms where she presents those paintings and mosaics that she considers most meaningful. Through this means she has transformed her living space in the House of Symbols into an “ego museum” where she celebrates her personal cosmogony.

There are, unfortunately, two threats to the continued preservation of Manca’s home. First, of course, is the age of the artist herself: fatigued and in precarious economic circumstances, she has lost the energy to conserve the wall paintings, and they are deteriorating more and more each day, due to the structure of the property itself. Secondly, despite the international recognition she has received, not all members of Manca’s extended family understand the importance of her work. Consequently, once she passes, there will be inheritance issues relating to the property itself and its economic value. There is a very real fear that this site will only survive through books and documents. Among these is the 2014 book Bonaria Manca: Rinascere ogni giorno, edited by Pavel Konečný and Roberta Trapani. A small segment featuring Manca also appears in the 2004 French film La sérénité sans carburant, directed by Marie Famulicki and produced by Stella Productions.

~Roberta Trapani


Update: The House of Symbols was declared a significant site by the Italian Ministry of Culture in 2015. It is now a house museum. Visit the website for more information. 


Map & Site Information

Tuscania, Lazio, 01017 it
Latitude/Longitude: 42.4185731 / 11.8703089

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