Stendhal syndrome or Stendhal's syndrome is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when the individual is exposed to an overdose of beautiful art, paintings and artistic masterpieces. Stendhal's syndrome can occur among travelers when they encounter a work of art of great beauty. At least once a month, foreign patients have been rushed to Florence's Santa Maria Nuova Hospital suffering from acute mental imbalances.

It is named after the famous 19th century French author Stendhal (pseudonym of Marie-Henri Beyle), who gave an early detailed description of experiencing the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence, Italy which he published in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio.

Although there are many descriptions of people becoming dizzy and fainting while taking in the art in Florence, especially at the Uffizi, from the early 19th century on, this was not described as a specific syndrome until 1979, when it was written up by Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini, who observed and described more than 100 similar cases among tourists and visitors in Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance.

The syndrome was first diagnosed in 1982, and it is said that "more than half the patients are tourists from European countries, Italians, on the other hand, seem to be immune to the condition, along with the Japanese, who are apparently so organized in their sight-seeing that they rarely have time for emotional attacks."


If you think you've experienced Stendhal Syndrome, or have been greatly affected by a piece of art, send us your story: