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Panorama of Poveglia (Venice) as seen from Lido.jpg
Poveglia as seen from Lido
Poveglia is located in Venetian Lagoon
Location in the Venetian Lagoon
Coordinates 45°22′55″N 12°19′52″E / 45.381944°N 12.331111°E / 45.381944; 12.331111Coordinates: 45°22′55″N 12°19′52″E / 45.381944°N 12.331111°E / 45.381944; 12.331111
Adjacent bodies of water Venetian Lagoon
Region Veneto
Province Province of Venice

Poveglia is a small island located between Venice and Lido in the Venetian Lagoon, northern Italy. A small canal divides the island into two parts. Poveglia should not be confused with Ex Poveglia, another much smaller island of the lagoon three kilometers west of Poveglia.


The island is first mentioned in chronicles of 421, when people from Padua and Este fled there to escape the barbarian invasions. In the 9th century the island's population began to grow, 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. The island remained uninhabited in the subsequent centuries; in 1527 the doge offered the island to the Camaldolese monks, who refused the offer.

From 1645 on, the Venetian government built five octagonal forts to protect and control the entrances to the lagoon. The Poveglia octagon is one of four that still survive.

In 1776 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 some cases of the plague on two ships, and consequently the island was transformed into 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 was again used as a quarantine station, but in 1922, the existing buildings were converted into an asylum for long-term care. This went on until 1968, when the hospital was closed, and the island, after being shortly used for agriculture, was completely abandoned.

In April 2014, a 99 year lease of the island was put up for auction.[1] The highest bid (€513,000) came from Luigi Brugnaro, an Italian businessman, despite a rival offer from a Venetian community group fighting to ensure the public use of the island for the years to come.[2] However the government agency handling the auction found Brugnaro's offer to be inadequate and decided to not assign the lease.

Buildings and structures[edit]

The surviving buildings on the island consist of a recently restored Cavana, the hospital, a bell-tower, a water tower and some smaller buildings used for agriculture and storage until the mid 1980s and later abandoned. The many legends surrounding the island have inspired some writers and bloggers to talk about a church on the island, a mental institution and a prison. The bell-tower is the most visible structure on the island, and dates back to the 12th Century. It belonged to the church of San Vitale, which was demolished in 1806 by Napoleon. The tower was re-purposed to a lighthouse. There is a sign for "Reparto Psichiatria" (Psychiatric Department) still visible among the derelict buildings, as photographed by Ransom Riggs in his May 2010 photo-essay documenting his visit to Poveglia. [3] However, there seems to be no evidence of a prison.

A bridge connects the island on which the buildings stand with the northern island that was used for agriculture by a local family until the mid 1980s, when it was abandoned and now is given over to trees and fields. The octagonal fort is on a third, separate island, next to the island with the buildings, but unconnected to it. The fort itself today consists solely of an earthen rampart faced on the outside with brick.

According to some[who?] the island contains one or more plague pits. Some estimates on the web suggest that 100,000 people died on the island over the centuries but official archivial records speak of just a few cases of plague-related deaths (in 1793 and 1798). The island in fact became a lazzareto only in 1782 (the Lazzareto Vecchio and Lazzareto Nuovo had previously housed plague victims in Venice) and by that time the plague epidemic was well under control in most of Europe.[citation needed]


The artist Giorgione died, probably of the plague then raging, by October, 1510. He was usually thought to have died and been buried on Poveglia,[4][5] but an archive document published for the first time in 2011 places his death on the island of Lazzareto Nuovo.[6]


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


External links[edit]