Situated outside of the bustling city of Milan (Italy) and immersed in an almost unnatural silence in the heart of a wild park, lies a very special place known as Montebello, or simply "Mombello."
The surrounding park located in Limbiate is breathtakingly beautiful. And the building was originally built as a summer retreat for a noble family in the 1500's. It was then modified in the centuries to come, eventually enlarged and renovated several times. It was even used by Napoleon Bonaparte himself during the Cisalpine Republic.
But during the 19th century, this large building complex was used for a more sinister purpose.
In 1863, Mombello was turned into a psychiatric hospital.
It was meant to host about 900 patients but it soon became overcrowded, with around 1100 patients in 1879. The recorded maximum was reached around 1925, with over 3000 inmates. Out of necessity, the buildings were added to. And the patients had to be classified and segregated due to the type and severity of their conditions. For a decade the famed psychiatrist Ugo Cerletti presided over Mombello where started his innovative experimental treatments for epilepsy and other mental disorders. His experiments eventually lead to the creation of the first Electroconvulsive Therapy (known commonly as Electroshock) Apparatus and the usage of electroshock therapy in 1938.
Everything changed thanks to the psychiatrist Franco Basaglia, who couldn't help but to be revolted by the inhumane conditions of the patients in the Lunatic Asylum of Gorizia where he worked. His refusing to bind the patients to their beds and to utilize the isolation method lead to a debate in the whole country and the endorsement in 1978 of a national reform bill that provided to the closure and dismantling of all the mental hospitals in 1978.
Despite these reforms, the Mombello closed just in 1999. And since then, the buildings are in a state of abandonment. It had become a destination for graffiti artists, vandals, homeless people and adventurous photographers.
The moment you walk into the park that hides the Mombello buildings, you were greeted by an upsetting silence that was almost unnatural. It was like being swallowed by the green, which concealed and and eroded the old architecture at the same time.
The sunny summer light mercilessly exposed the the state of decline in this place. There was broken glass, debris and dust everywhere while we slowly and silently moved in. Many corridors were so long that it was hard to see their ends, and it was chilling trying to distinguish anything in the distance. The papers scattered on the floor from the archives seemed to be calling me, but the almost total darkness of the rooms made me want to follow my companions closer. The surrounding nature had crept over the buildings starting from the walls: ivy vines tenaciously and relentlessly crawled through the empty windows, some even reaching as low as the dusty floors.
The corridors were also clogged by broken pieces of furniture. Remnants of patient beds could be seen if you dared to peek through the half-open doors.
The dining hall was an ample but now empty room. The walls were covered in graffiti; some quite beautiful, but all were appalling in a way.
We reached the women's wing after a small break. The atmosphere here was much more claustrophobic, since the threshold was partially clogged by bricks, and we had to walk in single file to get inside. The atmosphere reminded me of a zombie movie. Doors were barricaded with bricks, only to be partially broken down. And the precarious stairs seemed to dare me to climb them. We decided to stay on the ground floor and I couldn't help but to feel grateful for that. I couldn't stop looking up and be scared by the conditions of the false ceiling, which seemed ready to fall in big pieces right on our heads.
Our next stop was in a building that we called "The School" due to the presence of many desks. This location was my favourite, because once inside we were greeted by an almost fairy-tale like scene: the windows had still some pieces of glass and the foliage of the garden filtered the sunlight into a soft dreamy atmosphere. I couldn't help but run everywhere, amazed and excited, feeling a strange energy running along my body.
But that energy turned into a nervous one when we carefully climbed the dilapidated stairs to reach the second floor. Over there, the damages were much more severe and the roof had collapsed in many points. The sight of the summer blue sky from those gaping holes was really upsetting.
" In a mad world, only the mad are sane." Akira Kurosawa
I didn't realize how much my nerves wrecked up the day until we left that building. I felt such a great relief leaving the place with the sun still high in the sky, and I felt like I could finally breathe deeply again.
The feelings I experienced ranged from the childish thrill of exploring a forbidden place to the fear of being injured and left behind in that appallingly silent place as the sunlight died; from the excited photographer obsession to strive for the perfect shot to the human empathy for all those persons who had been suffering, separated from the 'normal' world by thick walls and straight-jackets.
The return to the civil world was almost unreal and I felt very grateful for the noise of the people moving lazily in the shopping mall. At the same time I'm very conscious of that silent darkness I breathed for the whole day and now is sitting almost peacefully behind my eyes.
Support me? Ko-fi/Commissions (cosplay included)
Kyiv : A Wonderland
Midna - the rescue kitty
With terrible suffering of Homeless people would it be kinder to renovate the abandoned Asylums and make them into Homeless Prisons? Yes they would be Prisoners but they would have a roof over their head. Or should homeless people remain free but without a roof over their head?
La malattia mentale degli "alienati" s'aggravava, vivendoci per anni o decenni, se non per tutta la vita, per non parlare del fatto che venissero internate molte altre condizioni di vita, non psichiatriche, ma ugualmente rigettate dalla società "normale". A volte bastava essere orfani, se non c'era posto altrove, per finire... lì. Mi viene da vomitare addirittura l'anima, pensandoci.
Sì, ma è anche vero che lasciando tutti 'liberi' senza strutture a fare almeno da transizione hanno posto un fardello davvero considerevole sulle spalle delle famiglie, che spesso non avevano i fondi e l'esperienza per prendersi cura di persone che a volte potevano essere anche pericolosi per se stessi e per gli altri. In mezzo ai depressi e alle 'isteriche' potevano esserci anche stupratori seriali, schizofrenici paranoidi e piromani.
Ah, at night it would be bad for many reasons: first people could get hurt due to the debris and the obstacles on the way, second most of the photos wouldn't be good or would look too lit because I'd have to use my flash (and I haven't a badass one yet unluckily), plus that place is used as refuge from homeless and drug addicted people so... better not dare too much.