Photo by Gianmarco Fusari
Picture the rusty bars of the windows lined with pieces of cracked and broken glass... How could you not be forced to envisage the miserable existence of the poor patients who once lived here? Many would argue that the place is still inhabited by dark presences and witnesses are ready to swear that they have heard unexplained voices coming from the abandoned rooms. This general picture is made even more disturbing by the incredible story of "NOF4", the artistic name taken by Oreste Fernando Nannetti, a patient in the asylum. Suffering from severe mental health problems since childhood, he came to the hospital in Volterra in 1958. He adopted the name "NOF4", which recalls the initials of his real name and his serial number.
Armed only with the belt buckle of his uniform, he began to inflict graffiti on the walls of the building for meters and meters. The incisions, difficult to interpret, are a set of scriptures and signs that are unknown or incomprehensible. Some say it describes the history of the world, an imaginary fantasy setting or told the artist's visions for the future, visitors from Tuscany villas might have to decide for themselves. Unfortunately, only part of Nannetti’s work remains, due to the derelict condition of the hospital. The work is now considered a masterpiece of "Art Brut".
Photo by http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Manfred_Heyde
Carved into the arch are three heads which date back to the Roman era. One head faces forward, looking out, and the other two are in profile and are set at a lower position. But one of the great mysteries of the city of Volterra still remains: who do these heads belong to?
As often in these cases, theories have been made, but they tend to be confusing and conflicting. As time has passed the weather has eroded much of the detail in these faces and now it is virtually impossible to make out any fine lines or specific features. According to some experts, these carvings could be representations of Jupiter and the two Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux. In Greek mythology they were the twin sons of Leda and brothers of Helen and Clytemnestra, who were transformed by Zeus into the constellation Gemini. Perhaps they were placed here to protect the city. For others, the heads may pay homage to the gods Tinia, Uni and Minerva. On a more gruesome note, others think that the presence of three heads is connected to the custom of hanging the severed heads of defeated armies at the entrance door of the city to act as a warning to future invaders. Whatever you think, this intriguing gateway is a must-see for all visitors to this part of Tuscany. Villas in the region reflect many different architectural styles, so for lovers of buildings this is a great opportunity to see one of the most significant architectural testaments to the Etruscans.