Magic light in the abandoned hospital on Poveglia

Poveglia – not so haunted

The island of Poveglia in the Venetian lagoon has acquired an unjust reputation for being haunted by ghosts of all sorts.

I have been there on numerous occasions, and I can confirm that it is all a pile of claptrap.

Poveglia is not haunted. It is simply abandoned.

It has been abandoned for fifty years, and it shows.

The ruins on the island are mostly old hospital buildings, as they appear after fifty years of abandonment.

From the 1940s to the 1960s the island housed a hospital for respiratory and skin decreases, but the hospital closed hurriedly in December 1969.

Salt water had polluted the island’s water supply, and the hospital needed lots of clean water. All the patients were temporarily moved elsewhere. However, the problem was never resolved and the hospital didn’t reopen.

It was never the plan to abandon the hospital, so much of the interior remained in place. As time dragged on, thieves and vandals did their part, and so did mother nature.

To this day we find hospital beds, chairs, cupboards, kitchen equipment, and much more, scattered around the ruins, inside and outside. Caved in roofs and collapsed ceilings combined with brambles and tree roots cover most of what remains.

Ghosts on Poveglia

This advanced state of decay is not, however, what started the ghost stories.

Well before the hospital, in the 1780s and 1790s, Poveglia served for as the Lazzaretto Nuovissimo. It was a quarantine station for ships carrying infectious deceases.

The black plague was in its last throes, and only a few ships ever quarantined at Poveglia, but nevertheless a dozen or so persons died of the plague on the island.

An inscribed stone carrying a warning marks their burial site, and the discovery of this stone under the brambles sparked the ghost stories.

The famous plague stone at Poveglia

The inscription reads:

Ne Fodias
Vita Functi Contagio

Which translates roughly to “Do not disturb! The dead, contagious in life, rest here. 1793”.

This is all it takes to make an island famous — or rather infamous.


Below are some photos from our visits to the island over the years.


2 responses to “Poveglia – not so haunted”

  1. Anton avatar

    Hi, I look for visiting Poveglia Island, but I can’t find the way to go on this Island, do you know some one who can bring me to the island?

    1. It is possible to visit Poveglia and many other lagoon islands with History Walks Venice — see here: Lagoon tour by boat.

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