Grand Central Hospital (IT) July '23

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UrbanX

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Preface:

It was our last day in Italy, with Ryanair eagerly awaiting our presence at 18:15, we’d been trying to kill time at the Mombello Asylum.

But it was a wreck, so we decided to check this one out on our way to the Aeroport Internationle.

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Oh boy.

As the locals would say: “Whadda mistake-a to make-a!”

The place was HUGE.

We should have come here first.

In fact, even if we’d got here at six in the morning, I bet we’d still be pushed for time.

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Historical Image:

“That facade must be 500m long!”
I declared.

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I checked it on Google Earth when I got home, and it was petty much bang on. It was a shame no one was around to see how smug I was looking. To put that into context, Buckingham Palace is 108m long.

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We could see even from the sat nav image that the hospital wrapped itself around a large chapel. Not knowing the security situation we decided to head straight there and try and get some shots before being kicked out / missing our flight.

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Approaching the chapel

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Just after leaving the chapel via the first floor balcony, my peripheral vision picked up a guy in black with a white word across his chest. As it was about 15 mins after we entered, I assumed it was ‘Polizei’.

I was well out of sight, but he was now heading straight towards where K was still shooting on her own.

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I crawled along the long walkway back towards where I last saw her.

We both spotted each other at the same time and began a mutual game of charades.

If you’re reading this now I invite you to join in, by attempting to mime “I think there’s a policeman down there”

Well done, that was better than we done.

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Anyway, while we were both doing just that, we realised that we were probably communicating the same situation. We looked down and realised that the ‘policeman’ was watching out little charade with intrigue.

He gave a friendly… albeit a bit confused wave, and moved on - taking his photos.

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History:

In the early twentieth century, tuberculosis was still a widespread disease in Italy. The data on deaths from TB was alarming; in Milan alone, between 1850 and 1900, there were about 46,000 victims. In 1911, therefore, it was decided to build a large sanatorium based on a project by the architect Ferrini.

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Mash up of a historical photo (left) and one that I took in 2023 (right)

The complex was only completed after 13 years in 1924 due to a certain World War causing a distraction.

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It would have been as impressive then as it is today, covering an internal area of 750,000sqm.

For comparison, my 3 bed house is 75sqm exactly a thousand times smaller.

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Then in 1929 two more pavilions were added, one for women, one for children. By this point it was treating 1000 children and 800 adults. (Funnily enough I think Severalls was 1,800 patients too, it felt a similar size to me)

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In 1951 it was refurbished and expanded, including radiology departments. In the 1970 we had the explosion of effective anti-biotic drugs which allowed the hospital to become a fully general hospital, like what we enjoy in the UK today.

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Archive image from the hospital

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In 2015, a brand new state of the art hospital was opened within pegging distance of the back door. Patients were transferred within a week and that was that.

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After rushing through the old building, I spied a couple of newer looking buildings, with no broken windows, which intrigued me. As I approached, a hippy / beatnik guy appeared at one of the upstairs windows, he opened it and leant out to address me. I don’t speak a work of Italian, and he didn’t know I was English. But using stereotypically Italian gesturing, and a polite voice, I understood exactly what he said: “We’re living in these two buildings, would you mind not coming in to these?”

I gave him a thumbs up and a ‘sorry’ gesture and moved on.

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I moved on to the last bit I hadn’t been near, the A&E department right at the main entrance. I heard some ‘human’ noises coming from the main hospital, and a little bit of crashing about, but thought nothing of it. We were all separated, so I knew others were in the building, and we all tread on glass or unwittingly kick an old metal light fitting across the floor at some point.

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My phone buzzed.

K had put on the group chat “two groups of 5. Now both on roof, throwing tiles off”.

Time to leave. I clocked the time on my phone also and realised that we were due at the airport in just 45 mins.

Definitely time to leave…

Thanks for reading.
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Epilogue:

I am just too time-poor in to explore re my current position to regularly in the UK. It’s a huge shame and I miss it so much. So, I generally do 1-2 European long-weekends per year. Planning for 20 odd explores, and happy if half are successful. This time was an absolute blast, including my crazy solo-mission across Italy to find the others. Long days of exploring, playing with our cameras. Then nights of good food and sharing old explorer tales. Hats off to Priority7 and K, who done so much research, and all of the driving.
 
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When one looks at the solidness of this hospital, when some 1920s UK TB sanatoria were wooden huts left over from housing injured troops brought back during the First World War - Harefield, foe example - hats off to the Ities. And typically, not just practicality but elegance as well. Surely it could be made into present day living accommodation.
 
Nicely done, sounds like a right laught but also.sounds like the place won't last much longer!
Cheers. I get the feeling it had security until fairly recently, maybe the start of the year? But has deteriorated very quickly. It was really disappointing that the chapel had been so badly vandalised.

Surely it could be made into present day living accommodation.
It'd suit it so well. A ward is roughly the size of an apartment, and of course these have balconies ready made too.
 
Awesome, you covered that one beautifully, The church is stunning just a shame it is trashed like it is. Shame the cop did not catch the guys on the roof
 

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