The String Man
Laboriously climbing a steep and arid hillside, I wished I had left some of my heavier gear behind on this sweltering day, but still, it was great to be here. Stepping through the scrub and brush, I thought about the tourists that lined the beach below me, eating gelato and tanning in the hot sun by the Mediterranean sea. They didn't know what they were missing!
I was focused on a large, salmon-colored building perched atop the tallest hill on the hospital campus. A pink elephant. The dirty and faded colors seemed to only enhance the dreariness. Although it seemed to have been visited by a few spray painters, it was quite interesting, with enormous halls flanked by incredibly small bathrooms and maybe 2-4 private bedrooms per ward. I was really itching to see one of the buildings that were a bit more difficult to access undetected, down in the campus proper.
Just outside a walled courtyard, a long footpath led down the hill in an almost magical kind of way - the overgrown and wild gardens draped over the passage forming a kind of tunnel, lined with a rusted handrail that snaked into the greenery. At the end waited two large institutional buildings with an identical floorplan. I noticed a concrete extension running out of one's side, and considered it a possible entrance. The tunnel was indeed connected, but home to quite a few bats and the passage was blocked. Luckily another entrance was found.
Something was remarkably different in the large day rooms of this building - curious objects were scattered everywhere. A series of sticks and logs were propped against a stairwell wall in an orderly fashion. Piles of twigs and dried grass were bound together with string. Rope, yarn, and twine were wrapped around bolts, sticks, and other objects, carefully and laboriously. Sometimes the string stretched along the wall and across the room to be attached to other objects. There seemed to be a "string man" still living in this decrepit hospital building long after it closed. Was he still here?
We soon discovered his room - a bit disheveled, but otherwise it seemed like he just left. Photos of the Pope, Mother Teresa, and other iconic Christians stared out amongst layers of string. Trousers and socks still hung from a few clotheslines; their many moth-ridden holes were evidence that the String Man had left some time ago. There was a pile of mail addressed to the hospital, assumedly to the String Man; I could not read the Italian handwriting but some were sent from churches in the area. I noticed one string was in fact an electrical wire, leading from a jury rigged lamp out of the transom window above the door, around some corners, and into what was probably the only live electrical line in the building after it closed.
We heard some activity outside, very close by. Some workers starting renovations perhaps. This barred-in building only had one way out, and the decision was made to high tail it out of there, although we could have easily stayed for many many hours photographing the String Man's creations. This exploration was one of the most inspiring and intriguing adventures I've had.