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Italy's Haunted Island: Poveglia, the Island of Ghosts

Poveglia Island

Poveglia Island

Venetian Lagoon

Venetian Lagoon

Poveglia Island, Italy

Poveglia Island is one of the hundreds of islands in the Venetian Lagoon of Venice, Italy. Found just three miles from Venice, surrounded by the Adriatic Sea and appearing to be a land of paradise. But, it is shrouded with the ghosts of over 160,000 lost souls and known as the Island of the Dead.

Back in the history of 401 A.D. and 410 A.D.The terrified Venetians were fleeing to Poveglia Island to escape from the notorious and barbarians Atilla the Hun and Alaric the Goth who were plundering and attacking Venice.

Atilla the Hun

Atilla the Hun

Alaric the Goth

Alaric the Goth

War on Poveglia Island

The Chioggia War broke out in 1379 between the Venetians and the Genoans, so residents moved to another island until the war ended. From that time, Poveglia was abandoned for over two hundred years.

Venice and Genoa were ruthless rivals for trading in the area. In the end, Venice was the victor by holding the Genoese fleet at bay and on the verge of starvation. Genoese surrendered, and 4000 sailors were taken as prisoners.

Unfortunately, Venice began a series of plagues, wiping out almost half of the people of Venice. Thousands of bodies needed to be disposed of as they ran out of room in Venice for burials. Officials began shipping the dead and dying to Poveglia Island, where they were buried in mass graves.

The first of the plagues began in 1348, wiping out thousands of Venetians. Another plague returned in 1576, and the residents realized that quarantine was necessary to attempt to control the epidemic. More bodies were shipped to Poveglia Island, compounding even more mass grave sites. A plague returned in the 1630s, and it all began again. The island was becoming the colony of the sick and dying. Fishermen refused to fish in the area after finding so many bones in their nets and washing ashore. They were also leery of the erosion of the soil contaminating the marine life surrounding the island.


Asylum of Poveglia Island

In 1922, a hospital for mentally insane patients was built to house them safely. The patients were sent not for treatment but to isolate them. The scientists and doctors were on the island, away from prying eyes, giving them the ability to perform experimental lobotomies. And, these experiments were done using chisels, hammers, and drills, and NO anesthesia.

Legend has it that one of the doctors performing lobotomies himself became mentally ill and threw himself down the bell tower. However, a nurse who supposedly witnessed the fall said the doctor did not die by the fall but that a heavy mist surrounded him with hands choking him to death. It's no wonder ghosts are said to haunt the island.

Lobotomy at Povegglia

Lobotomy at Povegglia

Inside Poveglia Asylum

Inside Poveglia Asylum

Mass Grave at Poveglia

Mass Grave at Poveglia

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Poveglia Today

It's easy to understand why Poveglia attracts ghost hunters and paranormal seekers. But today, the island is OFF LIMITS to the public. Buildings are dilapidated and dangerous. The Venetian government has been unable to sell the island and is attempting to determine what to do with the haunted island.

Documentaries have been made inspired by the island and include Ghost Adventurers and Scariest Places on Earth

One could say 'looks can be deceiving.'


fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on June 16, 2021:

Alicia, I do hope you will travel and be able to see all the wonders of the world. It's a shame such a beautiful island of Poveglia has such a sordid past. Thanks for visiting.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 15, 2021:

I would love to travel and see many places in the world. I would definitely omit Poveglia Island from my itinerary, though! Thanks for sharing the interesting information, Fran.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on June 15, 2021:

Rosina, thanks for visiting. I agree I wouldn't want to visit but hopefully, something is learned from history.

Rosina S Khan on June 15, 2021:

Poveglia island seems to be intriguing as well as terrifying. A place of ghosts! This is the last place I would like to visit. Better never! Thanks for sharing, Fran.

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 14, 2021:

Wow, what a place! Thank you for sharing this, my next travel destination..NOT! Very interesting, Fran. I had never heard of Poveglia Island. I have now.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 14, 2021:

What a horror story. You have certainly enlightened my, Fran. I cannot imagine experimental lobotomies. That is awful. It is easy to understand the stories and the ghost hunters. This is one place I do not want to visit. Thanks for sharing.

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