Volterra Psychiatric Hospital c. 1986
Many years ago, while still living in Maremma, a friend of mine took me to visit the abandoned mental hospital at Volterra closed since 1979 thanks to the Basaglia Law. The law recognized the need to change the standards used to treat mental patients. And that the best way of getting started was to close down the old to make room for the new.
But before the hospital was closed, it was the home of Oreste Fernando Nannetti (1927-1994). Born in Rome, at the age of seven little Nannetti was dumped in a charitable institution. Being abandoned as a child is overwhelming and can distort your perceptions. And, as Yeats said, too much suffering can turn the heart to stone. The emotionally scarred Nannetti started manifesting aggressive behaviour that eventually led to his internment at the hospital in Volterra.
Every day for 9 years, Nannetti would use his belt buckle to engrave symbols and signs on the courtyard walls. The result—180 meters of graffiti describing his imaginary world full of space ships, telepathic contact with aliens and the magical power of certain metals. He often wrote postcards to a non-existing family sometimes signing himself as Nanof or N.O.F. 4. Looking for someone to love, Nannetti tried communicating with aliens via telepathy.
courtyard where Nannetti worked on his murals…you can see the broken plaster in the background
Then the hospital was closed, and Nannetti’s engraved mural abandoned. Luckily, Aldo Trafeli, one of the hospital’s ex-nurses, recognized the intensity and importance of Nannetti’s work and commissioned a photographer to document it.
By the time I saw the walls (c. 1986), the murals had greatly deteriorated. Despite my lack of photographic skills, I took what photos I could and placed them in a box. Recently, while decluttering, I rediscovered them and, before they get abandoned again, have posted them here below.
Related: N.O.F. 4 Il Libro della Vita, a cura di Mino Trafeli, con le trascrizioni di A. Trafeli e le foto di Pier Nello Manoni (book with photos about Nannetti’s murals now difficult to find) + of interest, Inclusione Graffio e Parola Onlus FB page + NOF4
Sometimes you write just to feel in the void. (from Bebina Bunny’s Cabinet of Curiosities)