A few miles from Milan, in the middle of a green hill called Mombello, in the center of the little town of Limbiate, you can visit an ancient Villa, the Pusterla – Crivelli, who had many illustrious guests, by Ferdinand IV to Napoleon, whose sister Paolina right here, on a hot day of June 1797, married general Leclerc.
Seventy years later the headquarters of Bonaparte… turned into a psychiatric hospital. In a few decades, it soon became the largest in Italy, with over three thousand patients.
“Te se de Mumbell!” (“you are from Mombello”) was a popular expression in the local dialect to say that a person was sick in the head. Over the time were built buildings and nursing homes to accommodate the mentally ill according to the classification of that time: epileptics, paralytics, dirty, agitated, half-agitated.
The “quiets” were the lucky ones, because they stayed in the old Napoleonic Villa.
In 1997 a law sanctioned the closure of mental hospitals in Italy. The shelters and clinics were abandoned and these still lie, with floors covered with rags and forgotten clinical reports. To the people who venture into this quiet solitude, walking among dust and broken glasses, they seem to breathe the anguish of a life misunderstood.
Today it’s a destination for photographers, artists and homeless.