Rumors and legends abound around the small island of Poveglia. The history of the island is a dark one filled with murder, sickness, and death. Those who arrive on the island always seem to say the same thing: there’s something wrong with this place. Something very wrong. With the armed boat patrols surrounding the island it seems the mystery of this cursed place goes ever deeper.
A lazaretto is a place where diseased maritime travelers go to be quarantined and possibly cured of their diseases. Poveglia was briefly a lazaretto, but this is only one of the least horrifying things that occurred on the island. In the end it’s easy to understand when one takes a look at the long and terrifying history of the place why those who visit never return.
In 1379 the inhabitants of the island were attacked by the Genoan fleet and were subsequently relocated. After a massive fortress was built on its surface it was abandoned. Two hundred years would pass where no one would inhabit the eerie island, until it was offered to the Carnaldolese monks by the few who remained. The monks refused the free land, as did various others who were offered the land for free. In this time free land was not something to be simply refused as landownership was a symbol of status and achievement. Why the land was uninhabited despite having the impressive fortress on it is a matter of fierce debate to this day. The official account dictates that the island was once again inhabited in 1922 when an asylum for the mentally ill was built on it. During this time the inmates claimed to see ghosts from an era past of plague victims being burned alive or dying of plague and wandering the corridors at night. This was easy enough for the doctors to dismiss until they too saw the strange figures and came to realize why it was uninhabited. Later the asylum would be closed down. Rumors spread that the death of the head doctor was the result of several spirits angered by his cruel experiments. A retirement home would eventually be built, but also abandoned after residents became uneasy at the eerie energy around the island. To this day Poveglia is largely abandoned, and the coast is guarded by Italian authorities intent to keep curious visitors out. Local folklore suggests the coast is guarded to keep some terrible secret from getting out about the island. Stories circulate and the mystery of why no one remains there long is still very present for all visitors. Poveglia has been called everything from a gateway to hell to a place of lost souls and scorched earth. But even in this place, with all of its rumors and tales of a grisly history, is it possible that a peaceful community could one day thrive? Perhaps Poveglia is a lost cause – a testament of the unfathomable reaches of human imagination and the mysteries of the universe. But fishermen have been heard saying they would sooner drown than be cast ashore on this deserted island.