An islet just west of the Lido, San Servolo was the site of a Benedictine monastery, founded in the early 7th century. Between 1725–1978 it found a new role as the official insane asylum of Venice, with a psychiatric hospital that saw 200,000 patients over its 250 years of activity. It has a church built by Tommaso Temanza (who also built the curious little Santa Maria Maddalena.
In 2006, part of the complex became the Museo del Manicomio di San Servolo – La follia reclusa, dedicated to the history of the asylum and the treatment of the mentally ill over the centuries, with photos, newspaper articles, the laboratory, pharmacy, baths, the anatomical theatre, lodgings and medical equipment, straight jackets and chains as well as paintings and other items made by the patients.
Most of the island is now the site of Venice International University, which opened in 1995, a congress centre and a hotel sleeping 300. You can can also visit the park, where the staff once grew medicinal plants.
Hours Mon-Fri at 10.45am and 2pm. You can visit any other day by ringing ahead to make an appointment with the guide (tours start at €50, though!)
Adm €6, €4.50 over 65s; under 14s free
vaporetto no.20 from San Zaccaria.
+39 041 8627167
Images by: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, Creative Commons, Didier Descouens, Creative Commons License