Braille That Describes the View

Sitting atop Vomero Hill in the Italian city of Naples lies the 14th-century medieval fortress Castel Sant’Elmo (St. Elmo Castle). The former 10th-century church, now serving as a museum, exhibition hall and offices, is a must-see destination for tourists. Hundreds of people a day stroll through the enormous star-shaped fortification and venture up to the top of the castle to enjoy the panoramic view of the city and the bay.

Once atop this castle, the gorgeous sweeping views include Mount Vesuvius and the Tyrrhenian Sea. But that’s not all. Attached to the wall fence of the castle, runs a 92-foot-long piece of stainless steel railing. What makes this railing special, is that along the length of it are inscriptions written in Braille, poetically describing the view for those who are visually impaired. This simple yet beautiful addition allows people to experience the view, who otherwise would not be able to.

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This unique railing was first introduced in 2015 as an art installation called ‘Follow the Shape’ by 32-year-old Italian artist, Paolo Puddu. He won the fifth edition of the annual contest ‘Un’opera per il castello’ (A Work for the Castle) for his innovative idea to improve the connection between the structure and its surrounding landscape. The installation has become a permanent fixture since 2017.

Puddu created the piece as a form of coexistence between the castle and the scenery. Visitors are encouraged to run their hands along the rail to ‘follow the shape’ and feel the Braille, inviting them to reflect on the space in another way. Those who can read Braille script will find quotes from authors and poets, including Giuseppe de Lorenzon, written in both Italian and English. This helps give a sense of what it might be like to experience a breathtaking view, without physically seeing it.