Here’s The Story Of Poveglia, The Most Haunted Island In The World

When you think of Italy, your mind automatically conjures up images of quaint villas, romantic walks through charming cobbled pathways, expansive olive orchards, and exquisite art.
The one feeling that Italy far from evokes is fear.

And yet, Italy’s Poveglia Island is the stuff nightmares are made of.

Stories about Poveglia are probably as stubborn as the weeds that overrun the place. Some of them have been told and retold so so many years now, it’s almost impossible to separate fact from fiction.


What we do know for sure, is that for centuries, Poveglia has been a dumping ground for the dead and half-dead alike.

It’s no wonder then that people say that soil on the small island between Venice and Lido is 50% human ash and does well for the plants that grow.


Poveglia has been inhabited intermittently since the 9th century, but its descent into the damned only began in the 14th century when the bubonic plague struck Italy and the infected were sent to the island to live out the rest of their miserable days.
They were accompanied by the bodies of tens of thousands who had already succumbed to the inevitable, shipped to Poveglia to be burnt and buried.

Poveglia became a destination for the afflicted anytime a mass infection came around, and they came around a lot.

Then in 1922, a mental hospital was erected on the island, and everyone knows what emotional powder-kegs they can be.


Adding to the gloom, the doctor-in-charge of the Poveglia asylum tortured and performed brutal experiments on the inmates.
He apparently went mad himself from the guilt, and threw himself from the island’s belltower, only to survive the fall and be strangled by a “ghostly mist” that emerged from the ground.

Approaching the island, the 12th-century bell tower is the first thing you see.
Though the hospital was long shut down in 1698, people still talk of seeing the mad doctor’s ghost and hearing wails.

“Watch out for Paolo, he is the bad one, he was a doctor there, he will cause you troubles.”


The island has been abandoned and cordoned off for the most part of the last century, but most of the local fishermen still give Poveglia a wide berth for fear of catching the bones of the dead.

When you put all these stories together, it’s hardly surprising that the island has earned a reputation for being one of the world’s most haunted.


When night comes to Poveglia, darkness fills the crevices of the island’s ruined buildings and overgrown pathways, casting eerie shadows in the dank rooms that are still littered with the remnants of human occupancy from over the years.


Old hospital beds and pungent mattresses sit bedsides broken tables and surgical instrument benches and rusting bathtubs.

The floor of one room is carpeted with the torn-out pages of Italian books, and the ceiling fresco in the chapel that was once filled with the devout praying for better times is peeling away.

The island itself in a sheer state of decay, but it wasn’t always so.

Before the lazaretto become a purgatory covered in mildew and mold, most inmates had their own room, and were fed well and drank together and could send and receive mail, though not before their letters were “stabbed, sprinkled with vinegar, and fumigated”.


But during the full fury of a plague outbreak, Poveglia turned into hell, and there’s proof of that on a chiselled stone block covered in bramble that reads: “Ne Fodias Vita Functi Contagio Requiescunt MDCCXCIII”.

It roughly translates to “Do not disturb the contagious deceased in resting, 1793”.

In 2014, the Italian State government auctioned off the property to Luigi Brugnaro for €513,000 for a 99-year lease.
We sure hope he heeds the sign.


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Posted by

Amanda Francesca Mendonça

After spending pretty much all of my teen years waiting for a Hogwarts letter that never came, I gave up and settled for being a wizard with words instead. A hopeless romantic, when I’m not penning down short stories, I’m busy imagining my own happily ever after.

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