Manicomio di Voghera, Italy

Manicomio Di Voghera, Italy

Opening in 1876, the Manicomio of Voghera was a place of horror for it's patients. The asylum closed in 1998 and is now in a state of decay.

Visited June 2018 Voghera, Lombardy, Italy Partly disused and derelict

Aerial view of the asylum at Voghera
Aerial view of the asylum at Voghera

Like many of the asylums in Italy, the Manicomio of Voghera has an awful history of hardship amongst its patients. The ‘inmates’ were in the asylum to be hidden away from society, considered an object of shame.

Built in a neoclassical style in 1876, featuring impressive Italian gardens around the exterior. Nicknamed the Painful City, the hospital was a huge complex who’s patients were rarely released back into society. This was in no small part due to the ruthless treatment bestowed by the founder, Cesare Lombroso, an alienist (psychiatrist) who rejected most classical trains of thought on psychology.

With no real external governance, the patients became lab rats for Lombroso’s experiments, suffering all kinds of abuse. Many died from the experiments or the hardships of asylum life.

Male inpatients engaged in tailoring work
Male inpatients engaged in tailoring work

Upon arrival, new patients were immediately deprived of all their possessions and were placed in observation for a period of 28 days. After that time, a doctor made a decision as to which area of segregation they would be placed, dependant on their mental disorder – the “quiet”, the “almost quiet”, the “dirty and lame”, the “agitated” or the “sick and weak”. As for the treatment, until the early 1950s, the only methods of “care” were diabetic coma, electroshock and lobotomy. Generally, symptoms only worsened over time, recoveries were rare.

Life at the madhouse was hard and restricted. Orphans were often placed in the asylum, doomed to spend their entire life there.
Life at the madhouse was hard and restricted. Orphans were often placed in the asylum, doomed to spend their entire life there.

The patients were free to socialise with each other in common areas, until the moment they show excessively violent attitudes or pose a danger to any of the hospital’s 300 staff members. Such cases were locked away in a circular area of cells knows as the rotunda. The circular cells arranged around a semi-circular corridor had no corners and the beds were fastened to the ground.

The rotunda at Manicomio di Voghera, where aggressive patients were locked away
The rotunda at Manicomio di Voghera, where aggressive patients were locked away

Initially the hospital was split between into two, with half for male patients and the other for females. During the second half of the twentieth century, the distinction between sexes was removed. This led to the emergence of relationships between patients, including that of Luigina and Mario, who shared the same room. By the 1970s the treatment of patients was reformed. The asylum was eventually closed in 1998.

Manicomio Di Voghera - One of the two parallel corridors in the male wing
Manicomio Di Voghera – One of the two parallel corridors in the male wing
Manicomio Di Voghera - A trolley bed in one of the side corridors. A "Luigina and Mario" heart hangs on the door
Manicomio Di Voghera – A trolley bed in one of the side corridors. A “Luigina and Mario” heart hangs on the door
Manicomio Di Voghera - One of the darker corridors contains a child's bike
Manicomio Di Voghera – One of the darker corridors contains a child’s bike
Manicomio Di Voghera - One of the many decaying corridors
Manicomio Di Voghera – One of the many decaying corridors
Manicomio Di Voghera - Items remain in many of the rooms
Manicomio Di Voghera – Items remain in many of the rooms
Manicomio Di Voghera - A ground floor bedroom still has numerous beds
Manicomio Di Voghera – A ground floor bedroom still has numerous beds
Manicomio Di Voghera - The curved corridor of the rotunda
Manicomio Di Voghera – The curved corridor of the rotunda
Manicomio Di Voghera - The rotunda's cell doors
Manicomio Di Voghera – The rotunda’s cell doors
Manicomio Di Voghera - Following the corridors we find more beds
Manicomio Di Voghera – Following the corridors we find more beds
Manicomio Di Voghera - Some of the stairwells are gated
Manicomio Di Voghera – Some of the stairwells are gated
Manicomio Di Voghera - Upstairs we find many more items left behind
Manicomio Di Voghera – Upstairs we find many more items left behind
Manicomio Di Voghera - Fully stocked bedroom with beds, a wheel chair and cupboards of medical items
Manicomio Di Voghera – Fully stocked bedroom with beds, a wheel chair and cupboards of medical items
Manicomio Di Voghera - Some of the medical items including a syringe
Manicomio Di Voghera – Some of the medical items including a syringe
Manicomio Di Voghera - A room containing a cot for babies
Manicomio Di Voghera – A room containing a cot for babies
Manicomio Di Voghera - One of the more modest patient rooms
Manicomio Di Voghera – One of the more modest patient rooms
Manicomio Di Voghera - Another bedroom
Manicomio Di Voghera – Another bedroom
Manicomio Di Voghera - A room full of records and an EEG Machine
Manicomio Di Voghera – A room full of records and an EEG Machine
Manicomio Di Voghera - EEG machines were used to record brain activity
Manicomio Di Voghera – EEG machines were used to record brain activity
Manicomio Di Voghera - A wheelchair in a corridor
Manicomio Di Voghera – A wheelchair in a corridor
Manicomio Di Voghera - The decorative ironwork doubles as a security measure to hinder the escape of patients
Manicomio Di Voghera – The decorative ironwork doubles as a security measure to hinder the escape of patients
Manicomio Di Voghera - Some of the wards had terraces for the patients to use
Manicomio Di Voghera – Some of the wards had terraces for the patients to use
Manicomio Di Voghera - The asylum had a fully equipped cobbler shop for repairing shoes
Manicomio Di Voghera – The asylum had a fully equipped cobbler shop for repairing shoes
Manicomio Di Voghera - Some areas appear to have been abandoned more recently
Manicomio Di Voghera – Some areas appear to have been abandoned more recently
Manicomio Di Voghera - An vintage operating table was tucked away in one of the buildings
Manicomio Di Voghera – An vintage operating table was tucked away in one of the buildings

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