If you want to do some urbex in Italy, the former mental asylum is just one of the abandoned highlights that you can explore in the province of Vercelli and, as it is pretty complicated to get in, it’s wise to go there with a plan B (and C, and D). Here is what I visited during my two trips to Vercelli, until I finally managed to enjoy a tour of the abandoned asylum: a stunning example of industrial archaeology, a ghost town with some frescoed villas and the former pulmonology hospital, now well-known for being the setting of several ghost-stories.
Urbex in Italy > Abandoned places in Piemonte > The former mental asylum in Vercelli
The humidity that ate away the walls is now eating us as well. It enters through my nose and dampens my clothes, and I feel as if I were swimming through its endemic texture.
The sun is shining outside, but inside these buildings it’s dark, apart from a feeble light that, filtered by the plants taking over the windows, comes in green-ish and dusty.
The plaster is crumbled but still vivid and, on these colourful walls, humidity and time have created abstract artworks, mixing the touch of abandonment with the intervention of Mother Nature, who is busy painting the walls with bright green moss and embroidering every surface with dark green ivy.
Hidden behind thick vegetation, which once must have been a beautiful garden of tree-lined boulevards, there are the twenty-one buildings comprising a huge former mental hospital. They all have the same architectural plan, long hallways linking a series of small cells, whose fading doors are now flung wide open one after the other making up a long perspective of desolation.
Rubble from ceilings and walls lies on every surface as if it were dust, or time that, with a palpable shape, has crumbled in these neglected spaces. Even if the hospital has been vandalized, I still stumbled upon some objects from its spooky past, such as psychiatry magazines, straightjackets, wheelchairs, toys and more stuff that time hadn’t pulverized yet.
Scattered all over the floors there are medical records written with that handwriting from the past. They have been consumed by humidity and faded by time, but they still protect a few names from the darkness of the oblivion.
The silence you hear in a mental asylum is different from the silence of every other abandoned place. The silence in the asylum still speaks volumes on what happened there. It’s not just ‘silence’ but it is the negative of the shouts, fears, prayers and tears that flew through these hallways. It’s a status quo coming after something else, of which it retains the scent: a scent of despair that even this strong-smelling humidity can’t chase away.
The mental asylum in Vercelli: a bit of background
Built in the 1930s, Vercelli mental asylum was closed in 1978 after the Basaglia Law –the one that abolished mental hospitals in Italy. Of its 21 buildings, scattered over an area of 25,000 sqm, only one is still in use and it hosts the office of the environmental association ARPA, while the local health authority, which officially still manages the complex, left the area during the 1990s. This place is well known for the massacre of a group of fascist soldiers that happened in 1945 as retaliation by partisans.
More pictures from Vercelli abandoned mental asylum:
Urbex in Italy > Abandoned places in Piemonte > Industrial archaeology at the Ex-Montefibre factory in Vercelli
Poem of abandonment: “One day”
This feeling that is now so strong,
powerful as the roar of the machines,
one day will be muted, like this factory.
Collapsed ceilings and torn down walls,
covered with brambles of indifference,
one day will welcome homeless animals
who will come to die inside its empty spaces.
One day everything will be silent,
apart from the sound of our broken pieces
creaking under the steps of those who venture
inside the rusty skeletons of our neglected emotions.
And I wonder if those venturers,
peeking through the broken windows of the heartless rib cage
where the engines were passionately going full speed,
could feel the ardour.
One day these decaying warehouses
no longer purposeful
will be us.
(Sorry about this! ☺ I was so intrigued when I found a ‘poem of abandonment’ during my latest urban exploration at the former factory ‘Chiari & Forti’ that, this time, I couldn’t help having a go at writing one myself).
Ex-Montefibre abandoned factory: a bit of background
Founded in 1972, this factory produced synthetic fibres as part of the company Montedison s.p.a. Here in Vercelli, the production was focused on cellulose diacetate and viscose. After being abandoned in the 1980s, the area was used not only for rave parties –as often happens with former factories- but also as a warehouse where the traditional floats for the Vercelli Carnival parade are built.
Ex-Montefibre abandoned factory: how to get there
The factory is located in the north-eastern area of Vercelli. You can get to it through a hole in the surrounding fence near the roundabout on Viale Torricelli. Be aware that all the nearby factories are still in use.
Urbex in Italy > Abandoned places in Piemonte > the former pulmonology hospital ‘La Bertagnetta’ in Vercelli
Behind a rusty gate in the ‘Cappuccini’ neighbourhood of Vercelli, there is the former pulmonology hospital ‘La Bertagnetta’. From the outside, the place looks more promising than it actually is: a full-blown haunted mansion, surrounded by a thick wood of tall trees and tangled bushes, well-known in the area for ghost stories and murky night-time noises.
But once you are inside, the former hospital is pretty disappointing as there is almost nothing left, except a beautiful marble altar standing alone in the right wing of the complex.
The long hallways are filled with a blue-ish light coming from the smashed windows, whose unique shadows doodle sinister shapes in the broken bricks and rubble lying on the floor.
The few pieces of furniture left and the surviving frames of the windows are interweaved with thick nets, which trap the skin crumbling off the walls, as if they were snakes.
While we were walking past one empty room after another, we heard some steps and coughing coming from afar, although we didn’t meet any other person all day.
But even creepier than hearing fellow presences inside the building, was a walk around the neglected garden. Its tree-lined boulevards are covered with leaves, tumbleweed, tumbledown masonry, and lost balls whose young owners daren’t come to collect them.
La Bertagnetta abandoned pulmonology hospital: a bit of background
Founded in 1941, this hospital dealt with diseases of the respiratory tract. It was shut down in 1990 with the aim of turning it into a nursing home for old people, and a lot of public money was set aside for this purpose. But the company that undertook the contract for the renovation of the building cashed in the advance payment and never began the works. After accommodating refugees for a short period of time, the building was abandoned for good in 1996.
La Bertagnetta abandoned pulmonology hospital: how to get there
The address of the hospital is Corso Papa Giovanni Paolo II 31 (GPS coordinates: 45°18’40″N 8°26’14″E). From the main gate, walk towards the right corner of the surrounding wall, where you will find a stretch of fence that is very easy to open.
Urbex in Italy > Abandoned places in Piemonte > the ghost town of Leri Cavour
This ghost town is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen! It comprises several buildings, stables and a tiny church, and it is evocatively located near a power station, whose cooling towers definitely contribute to the apocalyptic setting.
The most stunning house is the one where Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, an Italian statesman and leading figure of Italian unification, lived.
This villa is located in the right side of the village. Its rooms are beautifully frescoed and even if the only thing still standing from its glorious past is a stone fireplace in every room, it still oozes a sophisticated charm that decay can’t erase.
The ghost town of Leri Cavour: a bit of background
Originally a monastic manor from the 11th century, Leri Cavour was a prosperous farming estate belonging first to Napoleone Bonaparte, then to Camillo Borghese and finally to the family of Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour.
During the industrial revolution of the 1960s, some farmers began to leave what by then had become a village. Leri Cavour was then repopulated in the 1980s by some workers from the nearby power station, which is no longer in use. The village was abandoned in the 1990s.
The ghost town of Leri Cavour: how to get there
From Vercelli drive along state road SP1 towards Trino and turn right before the power station ‘Galileo Ferraris’. Here are the GPS coordinates: 45°15′28″N 8°11′55″E Access is open and you can even enter the ghost town by car.
Check out my ‘Abandoned Italy’ series!
You can spot some of these places in my short video “1 weekend in northern Italy…in 1 minute!”
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