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The Town of Light

The Town of Light: Visiting Volterra

We visited the asylum that once housed thousands of mentally ill patients, and that provides the backdrop from LKA's challenging interactive adventure.

  • Text: Kieran Harris

A widely ambitious debut for a fledgling team of eight, The Town of Light provides a touching glimpse into life inside a 20th century psychiatric institute, documenting a young woman's struggle with mental illness. Striving to quash the stigma and raise awareness of mental illness, The Town of Light handles its subject matter elegantly, straying away from posing bias and opting for a true retelling. Ahead of the game's upcoming launch on console, we got the opportunity to visit Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra, the institute which was featured in the interactive adventure from, and we also caught up with art director and screenwriter Luca Dalo.

After wandering through the confined halls of the desolate facility, it was troubling to comprehend that the building was once home to thousands of patients that wrestled desperately with their mental wellbeing. The dilapidated Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra's walls were embellished with graffiti, marked with the conflicting emotions of those who passed by. What resonated the most, however, was when we visited the graveyard where many of the hospital's patients resided. As they were stripped of their identities upon arrival, many of the graves possessed all but a number to distinguish who was buried beneath.

After experiencing the game it was chilling just how faithful it was in recreating the architecture of the building and its many imperfections which have surfaced over the years.

The Town of Light
The Town of LightThe Town of LightThe Town of Light

Everything from its crumbling structures, flaking layers of paint and slashes of graffiti are present, forever securing its legacy in digital format. Visiting the site felt quite surreal as we'd previously walked the grounds through the eyes of Renèe and everything we remembered was positioned exactly where we recalled. Though some visitors did attempt to catch us off guard and sky rocket our anxiety by placing mannequins, peering lifelessly out of the barred windows.

Following on from the tour, we had the opportunity to visit the institute's museum, which existed previously as the check in area for entering patients. Here we got acquainted with the first hour of the enhanced console version, were treated to an exclusive live-action trailer, and gazed at artwork and household items crafted by patients. In the neighbouring room there also stood dusty old medical equipment which would have likely been used by doctors, who desperately worked to help their patients despite being short-sighted in the grand scheme of medical advancements.

The facility closed its doors in 1978, after stricter laws swept across psychiatric hospitals in Italy - this signalled a new era of change for Volterra. Its closure could have been due to the fact that the institution was broadly known for its treatment of electroshock therapy and was even dubbed as 'the place of no return'. Following its closure, Volterra plunged into widespread unemployment, as the hospital provided work for many of the town's then 11,000 residents. Instead of restoring the building or knocking it to the ground, it still towers as a beautiful yet tragic reminder of Volterra's history and remains deeply rooted in the quaint town's identity.

The Town of LightThe Town of Light
The Town of LightThe Town of Light
The Town of LightThe Town of LightThe Town of Light
The Town of LightThe Town of LightThe Town of Light