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Location: Poveglia Island, 3 miles South of Venice    Map

Area: 7.25 acres

Buildings: 11 structures

Closed (technically): due to poor state of buildings


Poveglia Island

Poveglia Island








Poveglia Island is a small island situated just 3 miles South of Venice in the Venetian Lagoon in Italy. Poveglia Island consists of two parts divided by a canal that has a single bridge over it. This abandoned plot of land is off limits to the tourists due to the condition of the buildings that are falling apart, but it does not mean people don't find ways to get to the island. Its main attraction is the remains of the mental institution that were opened in 1922 and closed in 1968. Many reports of paranormal activity have surfaced that keep the fame of Poveglia Island as one of the most haunted places in Italy alive and persistent. Several reality shows were filmed at this location including Ghost Adventures, Scariest Places on Earth and many more. Hospital that contains about 11 buildings on its grounds is considered to be one of the most haunted places.



Why is Poveglia Island off limits?

Currently there is reconstruction project going on the grounds of Poveglia Island by the Italian government. Dilapidated buildings are secured and reconstructed to restore to its previous significance. Additionally attempts are being undertaken to secure beaches of the island from further erosion into the sea. Hopefully it will be open soon for legal visits by tourists.



History of Poveglia Island

Poveglia IslandPoveglia Island originally was called Popilia after Latin word populus or poplar in English. These trees used to cover the whole island. Another theory for the origin of this strange place claims that it was named in honor of Ancient Roman Consul Publius Popilio Lenate (2nd century BC). He became famous for construction of a major highway through a local area known today as Via Popilia.
Poveglia Island was initially settled by few fishermen, but in the 5th century AD its population grew significantly by the refugees from the mainland Italy. Barbarians stormed the Apennine Peninsula and few lucky survivors made it here to safety. They settled numerous islands in the Venetian Lagoon including Poveglia, Venice and many others. Another wave came in the 8th century from Padua and Este that were destroyed by the Lombard tribes. Having become a village and a castle, Poveglia Island effectively contributed, between 809 and 810, to the resistance of Metamauco, the ancient capital of the duchy of Venice, besieged by the Franks. The inhabitants of Poveglia, for the active part in the defense against the Frankish invasion, received a series of privileges, such as exemption from taxes, military service and rowing in the galleys.


In 863 13th doge of Venice Pietro Tradonico along with the families of the 200 faithful servants was forced to hide briefly on Poveglia Island, following the civil unrest in the city. Former ruler was eventually stabbed the same year, but many of his former supporters stayed on Poveglia. His successor Orso I Partecipazio gave the concession of lands and valleys, with the obligation of annual census and an act of homage to be performed on the second day of Easter, and the right to have as governor a ducal castaldo (royal official), flanked by 27 local councilors.


The settlement grew steadily under rule of Venice until Genoan Fleet started to harass the citizens living on the islands during War of Chioggia (1379- 81). Venetians moved residents of Poveglia Island closer to an island of Giudecca within city limits of Venice for easier protection from the enemy. Octagon that is situated in the South part of the island was created about the same time as a line of fortifications by the Venetians. It served as a base for artillery batteries against intrusions from the sea. Despite military fortifications Poveglia island was also occupied by the Genoese admiral Pietro Doria who from here bombed the monastery of Santo Spirito. At the end of the conflict Poveglia was completely devastated and its inhabitants, originally several hundred, were reduced to a few tens
Poveglia Island remained uninhibited until the 15th century when several stockyards and warehouses were constructed here. Additionally newly arrived ships, sailors and cargo had to await for several days in a quarantine. In 1777 Poveglia Island was transferred to the Magistrato alla Sanita (Public Health Office) for medical sanitary purposes. A hospital was constructed here (Lazzaretto) to house people in a quarantine to make sure they did not bring plague with them. A marble plaque found on the west coast bears the following words: "ne fodias vita functi contagio requescunt MDCCXCIII" or "no digging (disturbed) the dead by contagion in life, rest 1793". In 1805 French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte ordered destruction of the Church of San Vitale. Its former location is visible by its former bell tower that was transported into a light house. Poveglia Island served as a armory depot for the French troops and despite its secrecy Austrians repeatedly tried to take the Poveglia island with sudden sneak attacks that were unsuccessful.
Lazzaretto was closed in 1814, but in 1922 abandoned buildings were transformed to a new hospital. They were rebuilt or reconstructed to house mentally ill patients had to be isolated from the rest of society. Many of the people who were sent here wouldn't be considered fit for hospitalization by our modern psychiatric standards. Depression, homosexuality, bipolar disorder and many others could be enough to get you here. Unfortunately this isolation and secrecy allowed doctors to perform numerous horrific medical procedures on their patients. Lobotomy that offered hope for a cure was quiet frequently performed within its walls.
Natural death was also common on the Poveglia Island. All those who were killed or died on the hospital grounds were buried in mass graves. In 1968 the hospital was completely abandoned and fell in disrepair. Northern part of the Poveglia Island was used for agricultural purposes and growth of vineyards, but it was too soon left alone.


n 1997 the Student and Youth Tourist Center presented a plan for the construction of a youth hostel; in 1999, as a result, the Ministry of Treasury excluded Poveglia Islands from the assets to be sold to private individuals and returned it to the State to be granted to the CTS, but the initiative did not go to port.


Since 2003, Poveglia island is managed, like others, by Arsenale di Venezia spa, co-participated by the Municipality of Venice and the Agenzia del Demanio. In 2013, together with San Giacomo in Paludo, Poveglia was put on sale to be recovered for tourism purposes; on 6 March 2014, the State Property Agency enters the island into a list of assets in a "public invitation to offer", that is through an auction with the reservation of assessment of the economic advantage to sell by a Commission established to purpose.

In April 2014, a non-profit-making association was set up, Poveglia - Poveglia for everyone, with the aim of participating in the call for tenders to win possession of Poveglia island for 99 years and to allow public use. On May 13, 2014, the day of the re-launch of the public invitation to offer for Poveglia del Demanio, Luigi Brugnaro, the owner of Umana, made the best offer of 513,000 euros. However, the Demanio Commission found the offer to be incongruous and the entrepreneur consequently opposed this decision by announcing its appeal to the TAR.



Monuments and places of interest on Poveglia Island

Of the ancient parish church of San Vitale only the bell tower remains, spared from the Napoleonic suppressions because it was used as a lighthouse. The tower clock, dating back to 1745 is the work of Bartolomeo Ferracina.

The church of Poveglia was a place of worship of certain importance as there was preserved a crucifix in plaster and stucco of the fifteenth century considered miraculous; it is found today in the parish church of Malamocco. However, the paintings representing Christ led to Calvary, by Giulia Lama, and the Miracle of the Crucifix by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta have been lost.

Several sources indicate in Poveglia island the place where, in 1510, the famous painter Giorgione was buried, but there is no certainty. Another source indicates, for example, the island of the Lazzaretto Nuovo as a burial site.



Haunting on Poveglia Island

There is no shortage of legends, stories and sightings that were reported about Poveglia Island. Some claim that over 160,000 people were buried here from the plague alone. Many more died in Lazzaretto after long voyages and many died in the battles. So this small chunk of land witnessed a lot of bloodshed. One of the legends claim that head doctor tortures many of his victims by carrying out some inhumane experiments on them. Apparently he wanted to become famous by getting to the cause of their psychological state since many patients claimed to have heard and seen plague victims. Many have died during his procedures and were buried on the grounds of Poveglia Island. Eventually the man went mad and started to see ghosts and hearing voices himself. He jumped from the former bell tower of the church. Some say he died instantly. However, one nurse who saw the fall claimed that he was still alive after the impact and instead was choked by mysterious mist that surrounded him.


Another common location for ghost visions is the "Plague Field" named so after mass burials of plague victims from three waves of the epidemics. First came in 1348 and claimed lives much of the city as well as much of Europe. Another came in the 1570 and the last came in 1630 that killed over 55,000 residents of Venice. The city tried to save itself by shipping sick and dead to the Poveglia Island. People were sometimes dragged from their homes under slightest suspicion of the bubonic plague. They were loaded on ships and transported to the Poveglia Island to spend 40 days here in a quarantine. Most of unfortunate victims died here. Many victims were burned in the North part of the Island and their remains were transported to the "Plague Field". Many local fishermen avoid Poveglia Island because they think that a layer of ash from human remains can still be carried around by the winds. However judging by the remains of the well preserved skeletons burning was not the only way to dispose of the body in those times. Many corpses were simply tossed into deep pits probably due to mass death rate. There is strong suspicion that some people were simply thrown into holes while still alive. Or at least that is what the locals claim. Many people also claim that you can hear moans, cries and coughs of the plague victims who still roam the island. Others reported smell of sulphur and burning wood.
Another belief that surrounds Poveglia Island is that of existence of violent ghosts within its walls. Several eye witnesses report being touched, pushed, slapped behind and even chocked by invisible spirits. One of the stories claim that a family came here to explore the island for possibility of constructing a personal residence here. Spent only one night on the mysterious and creepy island. They left unexpectedly with their daughter bleeding profusely. Apparently she received 14 stitches later in the hospital. They were unable to explain what exactly caused these significant lacerations to the face.


Ladder to the Bell Tower on Poveglia Island. It was one of the last things famous doctor saw before jumping to the ground. It is not advisable to climb it. The condition of the buildings is very poor. Things tend to break and break after lightest touch. Don't temp your luck. It is probably not worth it.



Mass Burials of the Plague victims on Poveglia Island


These are mass burials of the victims of several waves of plagues on Poveglia Island. This is only a fraction of all the bodies that were buried here. Many more were burned or tossed in similar holes around the Poveglia Island. Local fisherman avoid the area around the islands. Due to soil erosion over the course of centuries many of the former graves were washed away. People's bones were commonly found in the fish nets that were thrown here. So locals stopped fishing here altogether.