Hidden treasures

The museum of madness on the Island of San Servolo

Unknown places & works
San_Servolo

The museum of madness on the Island of San Servolo

Amongst the many museums in Venice, there is a very unusual one: the museum of madness on the Island of San Servolo.

The Island of San Servolo, the former site of a Benedictines convent, became in 1725 a psychiatric hospital, but only for Venetian nobles. Napoleon's government decreed in 1797 that mentally ill people from all classes had to be interned at San Servolo, a fact that continued under both the Austrian and Savoy reigns. In 1978 the Basaglia law was passed, which resulted in the closure of psychiatric hospitals. Consequently, the hospital on San Servolo was eventually closed down.

Recently the island has become the site for several university courses, but the memory of the old mental hospital has been preserved with the establishment in 2006 of a museum of madness in one the convent's wings.

The museum houses an exhibition charting the history of mental illness care over the past three centuries in Venice. You will see chains, handcuffs and straitjackets – used to contain the mentally ill in the 19th century – and also instruments used to cure mental illnesses, such as electroshock machines, or examples of music therapy, which was tried for the first time at San Servolo by Cesare Vigna, the director of the psychiatric hospital and also a close friend of the composer Giuseppe Verdi.

If you wish to visit a small and remote island in the lagoon and a truly unusual museum, take the number 20 ferry from San Zaccaria and get yourself ready for a journey into the world of madness.

And to discover other less famous islands of the lagoon in an unusual way, join our boat tour around the lagoon of Venice. This will take you to beautiful hidden places on board a traditional Venetian boat.

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

Latest posts

Venice: The Wheel of the Innocents in the Monastery of the Pietà in Venice

ruota-innocenti
Unknown places & works

The majestic neo-classical church of the Pietà stands next to St. Mark's Square in Venice, along Riva degli Schiavoni. Here, concerts ...

View

Padua: Villa Grimani Valmarana Calergi in Noventa Padovana

villa-grimani-calergi-valmarana
Unknown places & works

Veneto is undoubtedly the region of Villas, magnificent resorts and ancient places of idleness for Venetian nobles. Yet their origins a...

View

Venice: The Secret Garden of Ca 'Morosini del Giardin in Cannaregio

ca-morosini-del-giardin
Unknown places & works

Venice is a magical city for many reasons, amongst them are its many hidden gardens that few are aware of! One of the most secret and f...

View

Padua: The collections of the Convent of St. John in Verdara in Padua

eremitani-padova
Unknown places & works

The most beautiful museum in Padua is undoubtedly the Eremitani museum, created in 1895 to house the city's collections. The original s...

View

Top posts

Venice: The graffiti of the ancient merchants on Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice

Fondaco_dei_Tedeschi
Historical Curiosities

Each building located along the Grand Canal has an amusing story or a mystery to tell... After having been the Post Office building for...

View

Padua: The Museum of the History of Medicine in Padua

Museo-di-storia-della-Medicina
Unknown places & works

If you are tired of the usual museums filled with paintings and sculptures, you might find the Museum of the History of Medicine in Pad...

View

Venice: The door of the Tolentini Convent in Venice designed by Carlo Scarpa

iuav-tolentini
Big Names

Near Piazzale Roma is the impressive Tolentini church, built by Vincenzo Scamozzi in the 16th century and finished with an elegant Gree...

View

Venice: The ghost of the Chinese wife of Marco Polo

corte-milion-venezia
Mysteries & Legends

Legend has it that, during his stay in China, the famous Venetian merchant Marco Polo was in love with one of the daughters of the Grea...

View