Stockholm, Sweden. Waving Swedish Flag In Stockholm Street. Stockholm, Sweden. Waving Swedish Flag

When Cities Inspire Syndromes: A Fascinating Journey from Stockholm to Venice

When we hear names like Stockholm, Florence, Lima, or Paris, we often think of them as diverse tourist destinations, each with its unique charm. However, these cities also inhabit our psyche in a peculiar way, as they are associated with certain psychological disorders that continue to intrigue the scientific community.

Interestingly, despite these associations, none of these cities seem to suffer from a lack of visitors. On the contrary, sharing a name with a disorder can even enhance the allure of these places. Let’s delve into the fascinating stories behind five such syndromes.

Stockholm Syndrome: A Tale of Unlikely Loyalty

The Swedish capital lends its name to a syndrome associated with situations where one or more individuals become hostages. You might wonder what this city of colorful buildings and bridges has to do with, say, a bank robbery. According to Atlas Obscura, up to one in four people taken hostage in this way develop an emotional attachment and even a form of loyalty to their captors or abusers. “Some even begin to actively cooperate, crossing the line from victim to perpetrator.”

The term originates from a specific incident that took place in the summer of 1973. A bank robbery turned into a hostage situation, with the robbers holding four bank employees captive for six days. To everyone’s surprise, the hostages seemed to feel indebted to their captors, even raising money for their defense and refusing to testify against them.

Lima Syndrome: When Captors Turn Compassionate

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Lima Syndrome describes the exact opposite of the Stockholm Syndrome. It occurs when the kidnappers develop positive bonds with their victims. The term refers to a notorious hostage crisis in the Peruvian capital in December 1996. Members of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement took 600 people hostage at an event at the Japanese ambassador’s residence. Despite initial expectations, the captors became so empathetic with their hostages that they released most of them within days.

Lima - Peru - South America

Florence Syndrome: Overwhelmed by Cultural Riches

Also known as the “Stendhal Syndrome,” this phenomenon was first described by the French author (real name Henri Beyle) during his visit to Florence in 1817. Stendhal experienced “a sort of ecstasy” while visiting the Basilica of the Holy Cross, the resting place of Machiavelli, Michelangelo, and Galileo. This acute reaction, triggered by being surrounded by cultural riches, has since been observed over 100 times, often affecting Western European tourists aged between 20 and 40.

girl looking at the Florence

Paris Syndrome: A Shocking Encounter with the City of Light

Similar to the Florence Syndrome, the Paris Syndrome affects tourists from the East when they set foot in the West, specifically in the City of Light. First reported in 2004, the syndrome can lead to extreme psychological consequences, such as delirium. The exact cause remains unknown, but factors like jet lag and the language barrier between Japanese visitors and their French hosts are considered possible triggers.

Paris at sunset

Venice Syndrome: A Dark Attraction

Perhaps the most tragic of all is the Venice Syndrome. It describes the tendency of some individuals to choose the Italian city not as a tourist destination, but as the final destination of their life. This syndrome began to take shape in the late 20th century, seen by some experts as a consequence of the film adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novel, “Death in Venice.”

Grand Canal in Venice with Saint Mary of Health basilica, sun in Italy

So, while cities like Stockholm, Florence, Lima, and Paris continue to attract tourists with their unique charm, they also hold a peculiar place in our psyche, referring to disorders that still challenge scientific study to some extent.