We visited Maggiano’s Ex-Madhouse
We visited the Ex-Madhouse of Maggiano, discovering the history behind this huge complex now in disuse and brought to light by the Mario Tobino Foundation
Early Saturday morning together with my collaborator and friend Thomas, we are in the square of Molina di Quosa ready for an electrifying visit. Before leaving, however, as usual we take coffee and croissant at our trusted bar: The historic Barbuti’s Bar, a reference point in the center of Molina, renowned for its excellent coffee and the friendliness of the owners but also a reference point for cyclists of passage, since in case of puncture or other technical problem the owners will always be ready to help you.
After breakfast we are ready, let’s go!
Direction Maggiano, Lucca! a small town a few kilometers from Monte Pisano where the ex-madhouse stands in the center, now closed but can be visited thanks to the tours organized by the Mario Tobino Foundation, named after the doctor-psychiatrist who worked and lived there for most of his life.
To get there we have to check the navigator several times, as the streets are small and winding, but in a short time we arrive and park in the large parking lot of the former psychiatric hospital.
I do not deny that we look around quite puzzled, in front of this huge ancient building, now partially visibly consumed by abandonment. Broken windows, fallen walls and the vegetation that has partially regained possession of the area, further outlining the feeling of sadness that you feel in front of these places.
The huge structure
We approach the entrance together with a couple who arrived with us and for the guided tour. We enter and we are faced with a girl who asks us for the reservation number and where we pay the visit price of € 5.00 per person. Once settled, the latter takes us to the main courtyard where a small group of people await us (the visit is limited) and another lady who will be our guide on this adventure.
The path in history
The story begins starting from the first years of life of the Madhouse which originated in the second half of the eighteenth century when the Monastery of the Lateran Canons of Santa Maria di Fregionaia was closed and used as a structure for the hospitalization and custody of the insane or more commonly to Mental hospital. The narration continues through many interesting details at a historical level, moving on to discuss in detail how life was organized within the structure for the staff in charge of looking after the sick and the sick themselves.
An example? In order to be able to work in the asylum the men had to be tall and robust, so far nothing strange, but what if I told you that the women instead had to be beautiful and at least 1.65 centimeters tall? There is no logical explanation for this or at least I don’t remember hearing why but these were the rules. He then tells us why the asylum was so out of the city of Lucca and Pisa. This is because the screams of the sick would not have given peace to those who had lived at least until the advent of psychotropic drugs that put the patients in a condition of extreme tranquility like vegetables.
The church for everyone
We enter the church of the asylum afterwards, unfortunately today it is stripping a bit for past thefts and a little because (fortunately) most of the assets have been secured in the state archives. I don’t want to go too long but inside the church, if you can visit it you will notice that there is a very large grid above the door. Behind the grill, the nuns could take part in the mass without having to mix with the sick while maintaining a state of total isolation.
The male sector from an ancient cloister to a place for recreation
Once the description is finished we walk into the male wing (identical to the female one) entering first into a circular courtyard where the sick could play when the weather was good or otherwise spend time outdoors. We note that in several places there are drawings carved in stone, made by the sick and arrived up to today to tell us small moments of life of the internees.
Around the rectangular courtyard there are several doors! In the first we find a machine for making x-rays.
Why? Very simple, the sick were treated exclusively inside the structure and in fact everything necessary was installed there, even becoming a small avant-garde hospital.
The hospital and internees
Then we find a room where the paintings made by the sick over the years have been collected, with the signatures affixed above. In addition to them there are unfortunately also drawings made by those who entered the asylum when it was now in a state of neglect.
There are many questions that wind through the group, mixed with dismay at the climate of despair and sadness that reigns within the structure. The question I keep asking myself is: “But has anyone ever been released from this place?” I am answered yes. It depended a lot on the time and who managed the structure at the time. This was because over the years there had been many changes depending on the management, such as in some periods where even the sick were allowed to participate in a singing contest that was held within the structure and for which many illustrious guests also arrived from Lucca and Pisa.
The women’s sector and the kitchens
We continue then visiting the female dormitories and the bathrooms. No words are needed, but I think the photos are enough to describe the sadness that shines through. Silence has fallen on the group and everyone is probably thinking about the people who have been “guests” of this place.
Then we visit the kitchens, huge and for the time decidedly avant-garde, now dirty and smelly but with a decidedly dark and gloomy charm.
We conclude the visit in the wing now used as a museum where we are shown various objects used inside the asylum including an electroshock and the rooms where Doctor Mario Tobino lived for most of his life inside the Maggiano Asylum.
I don’t want to go further so that you can experience the visit firsthand.
Live this experience too!
If you also wish to visit the facility you can book the visit on one of the scheduled dates, find all the details by clicking here!
We would like to congratulate the Mario Tobino Foundation for the excellent work done both in the maintenance and safety of the routes that can be visited, and for the great preparation of the guides on the history and curiosities of life in the structure.
Photocredit: Thomas Gronchi