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Panorama of Poveglia (Venice) as seen from Lido.jpg
Poveglia as seen from Lido.
Country:  Italy
Coordinates: 45°23′N 12°20′E / 45.383°N 12.333°E / 45.383; 12.333
Terrain: Island
Owner: Italian government
Status: Off limits to locals and tourists

Poveglia is a small island located between Venice and Lido in the Venetian Lagoon, Italy. A small canal divides the island into two parts.



The island first came to be referenced in chronicles in 421 CE, when people from Padua and Este fled there to escape the barbaric invasions. In the IX century the island started to be intensely populated, and in the following centuries its importance grew steadily, until it was governed by a dedicated Podestà. In 1379 Venice came under attack from the Genoan fleet; the people of Poveglia were moved to the Giudecca, and the Venetian government built on the island a permanent fortification, called "the Octagon," still visible today. The island remained uninhabited in the following centuries; in 1527 the doge offered the island to the Camaldolese monks, but they refused the offer. In 1661 the descendants of the original inhabitants were offered to reconstruct their village on the island, but they refused too.

In 1777 the island came under the jurisdiction of the Magistrato alla Sanità (Public Health Office), and became a check point for all goods and people coming to and going from Venice by ship. In 1793, there were several cases of the plague on two ships, and consequently the island was transformed in a temporary confinement station for the ill (Lazzaretto); this role became permanent in 1805, under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte, who also had the old church of San Vitale destroyed; the old bell tower was converted into a lighthouse. The lazzaretto was closed in 1814.

In the 20th century the island went back to be a quarantine station, but after the first years of the century it was converted again, and the existing buildings were used by the venetian retirement home. This went on until 1968, when the retirement home left the buildings, and the island, after being shortly used for agriculture, was completely abandoned. Presently, the island is a public property of the Italian state.[1][2]


In recent times, some legends have arisen about the island. According to these legend, during Roman times it was used to isolate thousands of plague victims, and during the three occasions when the Black Death spread through Europe, the island was effectively used as a lazaretto and plague pit - it was considered an efficient way of keeping the infected people separated from the healthy. According to this version, over 160,000 people died on the island throughout its history.[3] It should be noted that the island used in 1576 to accommodate those hit by the plague was not Poveglia, but Lazzaretto Nuovo.[2]

Another legend states that in 1922 a mental hospital was built on the island. The legend states that a particular mental health doctor tortured and butchered many of the patients, before going "mad" and jumping to his death from a bell tower. According to that same legend, he survived the fall, but was 'strangled by a mist that came up from the ground'. Its ruins remain to this day.[3] As previously stated, the institution which took place in Poveglia in the early XX century was not a mental hospital, but a retirement home.[2][1]

The island has been featured on the paranormal reality shows Scariest Places on Earth and Ghost Adventures.


  1. ^ a b (Italian) Photo Archive of Lagunar Islands - Poveglia
  2. ^ a b c Leopoldo Pietragnoli, Early Poveglia, in Venice Magazine
  3. ^ a b Scary for Kids - The Haunted Island

External links

Coordinates: 45°23′N 12°20′E / 45.383°N 12.333°E / 45.383; 12.333



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