Instituto Antonacci – Sleeping Pretty in Lecce

I was knackered, having stayed up past 2am doing my post-processing. There was no urgency, except that I really wanted to see my shots.

My room had high ceilings and one window whose cil started about 8ft off the ground. Adorned with shutters, there was a contraption leaning up against the wall, in the corner, with which to close the said offender. To be honest, I couldn’t be assed with trying to close it. What it meant was that as soon as the sun was up, friendly, warm light spilled in….early.

I don’t know why, perhaps due to years working in dark studios, my eyes are hypersensitive to light. As soon as the sun is up, so am I. Being in Lecce , I was in a heightened state of excitement anyway. Up I got. Instituto Antonacci was quiet, nothing stirred, not even a mouse. Luckily my room was right next to the Braille library. I grabbed my tripod and tippee toed in, so as not to disturb. There was an extraordinary aroma of musty pages: shelves and shelves of braille books and some spread out on a table in the centre, a complete set of The Divine Comedy giggling in the corner, some of the students’ exercise books on display and a braille version of Walt Disney’s Bambi.

Again, through another window high up, shone the sun. I knew it was only a matter of time before students would arrive, so I trembled trying to get the shots done using l-o-o-o-n-g exposures.

There is more here than meets the eye. Yes, the rooms are lovely, clean, furnished simply. Yes, the staff are lovely and friendly but it’s not just a B & B. Walking down the echoey corridors, you come across strange artefacts….sewing machines….other paraphernalia. There is even a lecture theatre. There seem to be several ways to access the same place, like an Escher drawing, up and around, down and out. The floor is tiled throughout with terracotta and white. This is an art class in the rules of perspective.

Next to the lecture theatre are classrooms which welcome visually impaired students. Papier maché sculptures and willow baskets lie scattered about. Easels rest up against the wall like elderly people taking a rest on the way to the supermarket.

Down yet another corridor, I pass through door after door, into the derelict wing of the building. Again the same motif, stacks and stacks of braille books, abandoned. I wonder how anyone could just neglect them like this.

It’s silent. All I can hear is me tightening up my tripod and breathing.

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