The Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore in Italy

Stendhal’s syndrome – a crazy condition?

Overwhelmed by the art in Florence? Breathless at the thought of another gallery tour in Italy? For the thousands of visitors who visit famous museums and art galleries throughout the world, the excitement of seeing some of the most iconic paintings and sculptures on the planet is all part of the tour. However, some visitors experience a physical reaction called Stendhal’s syndrome.

What is Stendhal’s syndrome? In his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio, the French author Stendhal describes experiencing palpitations, breathlessness and lightheadedness when he was faced with magnificent works. A number of visitors to the Uffizi Gallery from the 19th century onward reported similar symptoms. In 1979, the condition was named Stendhal's syndrome. While not recognized as a psychiatric disorder, the term is nevertheless used to describe a physical reaction to the beauty of the natural world and great art.

How to manage feeling overwhelmed

Eliminating the experience of the sublime is neither desirable nor necessary. However, it is possible to prepare for visits to major art galleries so as to minimize stress and maximize pleasure. Major galleries offer so much that it is not possible to view everything in one visit. Planning the visit to focus on a few paintings is a good way to take in the magnificence of the art in places such as Florence. Visiting the galleries early in the morning is a good way to avoid crowds that can provoke unnecessary stress.

Having travel insurance with emergency medical assistance is always advisable when visiting overseas, as it allows you the peace of mind to fully experience the natural and human-created wonders of the world without unnecessary worry. We are all vulnerable to accidents and illnesses at any time. When we are overcome by new experiences, we may be at our most vulnerable. Organizations like Blue Cross provide comprehensive travel insurance for those venturing to Europe in search of exquisite art and cultural experiences.