The 200 year-old Hospital for Dolls in Naples

In one of the oldest, most intriguing areas of Napoli lies a dim workshop clustered with disembodied limbs, eyes missing their partner and organs ready for transplant. No, not a horror film in real life, rather one of the best hospitals in Naples, which gives its patients a new breath of life allowing them to live on another 100 years. Dolls, toys and puppets needn’t fear in Naples, as the Ospedale delle Bambole (The Doll Hospital) can cure any ailment, and at the same time restore the dreams of their owners.

Luigi Grassi’s chaotic workshop can be found in Via S. Biagio dei Librai in the area of Spaccanapoli, named so because it literally ‘spaccava in metà’, or cut in half, the old city. Four generations of his family have worked, and work, here in the hospital creating their magic.

The Story of the Doll Hospital

The Hospital has a charming history. At the beginning of the 19th century Luigi Grassi, a handsome man with a curling mustache, had a workshop where he painted theatre scenography and repaired all kinds of scenographic objects including puppets, much to the curiosity of all who passed by. As the story goes, one day a frantic mother came into the shop with a broken doll and begged Grassi to repair it. Gallantly, he told her not to worry and that he would return the doll good as new. A few weeks later, on seeing the cured toy, the mother proclaimed to the ‘Doctor’ that she would tell her child she had visited a magician’s workshop. The fame spread and soon ‘Doctor’ Grassi was obliged to write in red pen on a wooden sign ‘Ospedale delle Bambole’ adorned with a red cross and place it above his workshop.

Visiting the Hospital

With each new patient being provided with a hospital bed, nurses and prescriptions, this is a fantastic place to visit with children. However its charms are certainly not limited to children. Grassi is an artist, craftsman, doctor and perhaps magician all in one and it is inspiring and nostaglia-provoking to see the care and skill which is dedicated to each work. In fact, the Hospital also treats sacred statues, including creating wigs and clothing, using ancient and conservative techniques. While the amusing mini-hospital is what tends to capture attention, Grassi’s workshop is a place of serious, painstaking and extremely skilled artistry. More information in visiting times, how to book a visit, and the work they execute can be found in their website, in English and Italian.

Be sure to look at the Hospital’s instagram page which has unsettlingly eerie images of disembodied heads and garishly coloured old toys more reminiscent of a horror film than a place that restores the dreams of children…

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Wander Mum

28 thoughts on “The 200 year-old Hospital for Dolls in Naples

  1. When I think of Naples, I don’t typically think about doll hospitals. This was an interesting read. It was great to read about a place like this that I will probably never visit. As it turns out, there is a place in Georgia (US) kind of similar. It’s for Cabbage Patch dolls and you can go view their “birth” and “adopt” one. But it’s definitely aimed at kids. I don’t think CP dolls require the kind of artistry that the dolls in Naples (or at least the ones shown on this post) would require. Thanks for sharing! 🙂


  2. I have to say this is a bit creepy, but still so cool and unique! When I was little, a neighbor’s dog got a hold of my American Girl Doll and ate off her hands and feet. Let’s just say I was horrified. I did EVERYTHING with this doll. My mom ended up sending it to the “American Girl Doll Hospital” and she came back in a hospital gown and as good as new! I’m not sure if they just switched her out for another doll, but it made me super happy all the same! Such a fun concept! 😀


    1. Haha what a traumatic experience, but some clever parents there! I was obsessed with a bear so my parents tried to find a second identical one, unfortunately they couldn’t find one so they were constantly terrified I’d lose it!


  3. Love the story behind this hospital but I don’t think I can go there, it does look creepy! I’m afraid of dolls! Lol. I had to scroll fast whenever there’s a doll photo. I don’t even know why I read this in the first place but I guess, it sounds intriguing! :p


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