A Wide-Ranging Project to the Best Use of S.Niccolò Psychiatric Hospital


  • Francesca Vannozzi History of Medicine Section, Internal, Cardiovascular and Geriatric Medicine Dept. University of Siena, I


Pyschiatric hospital, Moral treatment , Mental disorders


The S. Niccolò Psychiatric Hospital was one of the most important health institutions not only for Siena but for the entire Tuscan district and beyond. It was known to serve all the catchment area for mentally ill patients coming from other cities. At a national level, it is also one of the most beautiful models of hospital architecture of the “village” type, the expression of a late nineteenth-century tendency to perceive mental disorders as illnesses that could be improved and cured through “moral treatment”, with work and distraction as the principal therapeutic instruments. The closure of the psychiatric hospital in Siena provided for by the Italian psychiatric reform of 1978 actually took place over an extremely long period of time. It was definitively closed only on 30 September 1999 and was the last psychiatric hospital in Tuscany to cease its activity. Its history, the importance it had for the considerable number of committed patients, the extension of the area of the hospital over 183,574 m2 and its organization in 16 edifices, mean that S. Niccolò is now an architectonic complex of great value and interest but also subject to progressive deterioration. This reality, together with the urgency of salvaging the collections of books from its very rich library and its archives of administrative documents and medical records, has led the author to prepare a wide-ranging and extremely complex project that aims at the best use of S. Niccolò. Thanks to the collaboration of a group of experts from various Faculties of the University of Siena, and beginning with a multidisciplinary study of S. Niccolò’s history, the project proceeds to the identification of concrete actions of cultural policy as well.