Museo della Follia
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Museo della Follia information
Lonely Planet review
As well as a poignant photographic collection displaying portraits of patients before and after treatment, San Servolo’s Museo della Follia contains the full paraphernalia of psychiatric treatment of the day, including chains, handcuffs, cages for ice showers, early electro-therapy machines and a rare plethysmograph (the precursor of the lie detector).
The tour also takes in the reconstructed anatomy theatre beside the church and the ancient pharmacy. For centuries many of Venice’s medicines were concocted here – including various ‘cures’ for syphilis, a common cause of mental-health problems, even after the discovery of penicillin. Since most penicillin in Italy was set aside for the military well into the 20th century, it remained a sought-after street drug.