Does Your Heart Skip a Beat in Florence?

April 5, 2013 / Art & Archaeology
Florence, Tuscany
Magnificent - it can make you dizzy!
Magnificent – it can make you dizzy!

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… then more museums, churches, piazze, palazziwhew!

Everywhere you go in Florence, there is magnificent art. No doubt, it can be breathtaking and overwhelming. And, 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-ha… you may be experiencing Stendhal Syndrome!

Stendhal, namesake of Stendhal Syndrome Photo credit: Wikipedia
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 overdose 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.

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?

No wonder Florence has its own syndrome.
No wonder Florence has its own syndrome.
Art lovers flock to Florence.
Art lovers flock to Florence.
Art-filled museums, churches, palazzos, & piazzas.
Art-filled museums, churches, palazzos, & piazzas.
Michelangelo views the droves of visitors
Michelangelo views the droves of visitors
The Duomo...more breathtaking sights
The Duomo…more breathtaking sights
All this beauty can be overwhelming.
All this beauty can be overwhelming.
Everywhere you look...
Everywhere you look…
Florence is a treasure trove of art...
Florence is a treasure trove of art…

David's beauty can leave us speechless.
David’s beauty can leave us speechless.

Victoria De Maio

by Victoria De Maio

Victoria is a lover of all things Italian! A travel advisor, blogger, writer, tour leader, and published author, she is passionate about traveling to and writing about Italy.

Her book, Victoria’s Travel Tipz Italian Style, is available on Amazon.

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15 Responses to “Does Your Heart Skip a Beat in Florence?”

  1. Dan Johnson

    While not suffering the “Stendhal Syndrome”, we surely acquired stiff necks from staring up at all the beautiful artworks in not only Florence but in many other Tuscan locations. Great views!

    Reply
  2. Kenneth Martin

    I need to return to Florence, Stendhal Syndrome present or not!

    Reply
  3. Those scientists…always trying to quantify things that shouldn’t be analyzed so precisely. I don’t need an EKG to tell me when my heart is beating faster!

    Reply
  4. My heart skips a beat just thinking about Florence…. Im returning in September to continue my love affair….

    Reply
  5. Si! I suffer from this syndrome… and can’t wait to be inflicted again and again, and again!

    Reply
  6. Carol Wood

    This is my favorite city in the world! I spent hours in the Uffizi taking notes. It is spellbounding to walk the streets and to enter the facilities. Not only is the city ever so special, but so are the people. I have made friends there, and these precious folks have brought it all very alive for me. Many write in Italian on my FB, but most of them also speak English. One even had a party so her friends could meet me. Those who have been there are truly blessed!

    Reply
  7. I will never forget when I walked around the corner in the museum and found the David. It did take my breath away and brought tears to my eyes.

    Reply
    • Alexander A. DiSanti

      I had the same precise reaction, borne from the feeling that the majesty of the work, with the veins and muscle tone so vivid, made it appear to me that the statue was going to move.

      Reply
  8. I’m so pleased that so many of you share the “symptoms” with me! I never tire of gazing upon all the magnificent art in Florence and, of course, everywhere in bella Italia.
    (And, just so you know, I took all of these photos with my iPhone4S.)
    Grazie…

    Reply

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