Spotlight on: Florence, the Birthplace of Stendhal Syndrome

Does Your Heart Skip a Beat in Florence?

Florence is a treasure trove of classic art, a must destination for art lovers. In droves, visitors flock to the Uffizi. Practically speechless, they shuffle through in awe of the artistic masterpieces. Next, the Accademia and David…next, more museums, churches, palazzos…whew!

Everywhere you go in Florence, there is magnificent art. No doubt, it can be breathtaking and overwhelming.. For some, it literally is! Feeling a bit light-headed, faint or dizzy? You’re not alone. It could be the heat, the crowds, exhaustion or jet lag. But even after sitting down or drinking some water, the symptoms may persist. Ah, you may be experiencing Stendhal Syndrome. What syndrome?!?

Stendhal, namesake of Stendhal Syndrome

Stendhal, namesake of Stendhal Syndrome

Stendhal Syndrome was named after famous 19th-century French author Henri-Marie Beyle known by his pen name, Stendhal. While visiting Florence in 1817, Stendhal described his experience:

“As I emerged from the porch of Santa Croce, I was seized with a fierce palpitation of the heart; the wellspring of life was dried up within me, and I walked in constant fear of falling to the ground.”

However, it wasn’t until the 1970’s when Italian psychologist, Graziella Magherini, observed over 100 cases with similar symptoms that the condition resulting from of an over dose or overexposure to beautiful art was actually called Stendhal Syndrome.  Hence, Florence is not only the birthplace of the Renaissance, but of Stendhal or Florence Syndrome.


My heart beats faster, doesn’t yours??

Although it’s debated as to whether it’s psychosomatic, Stendhal Syndrome or hyperkulteremia has real symptoms including rapid heartbeat, fainting, dizziness, even hallucinations! Real or not, local hospital staffs are accustomed to treating tourists experiencing these symptoms.

Recently Italian scientists decided to use hi-tech instruments to see if they could actually monitor and measure tourists’ reactions. I‘m not sure of the results but I am sure that I don’t need scientific proof to know that my heart beats faster when I see David. Doesn’t everyone’s?!?

Prepare for a magnificent overdose of breathtaking art…


This article was originally published on April 5, 2013 on Italian Notebook.

Reference: Wikipedia, The Telegraph UK, Huff Post Arts

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