The grisly tale of Poveglia Island


Halloween is almost upon us and to honour this spooky time of year we’re looking at some of the most haunted locations across Europe. We start this ghoulish journey with Poveglia Island lying just off the shores of Venice.

A quaint Italian island may seem like paradise with beautiful weather, picturesque scenery and a luscious vineyard but Poveglia has a disturbing secret. Dubbed ‘the Island of Madness’, it has remained completely uninhabited since the 1960s with locals too terrified to step ashore, fishermen steering clear and tourists forbidden from visiting.

Poveglia’s dark history dates back to the Roman Era when it was used to isolate plague victims from the city and when the Black Death arrived in Europe it served the same purpose. As the disease swept through Italy, residents became increasingly paranoid and anyone showing even the slightest sign of infection were dragged from their homes and placed on Poveglia.

Piles of corpses were stacked high and then set ablaze and any new arrivals were thrown onto the flaming bodies and left to die. It is believed that as many as 160,000 people perished during this time. You’d think that something this horrific would be the peak of Poveglia’s bleak past but you’d be wrong.

In 1922, the island opened its doors to a psychiatric hospital. The building was instantly recognisable thanks to its imposing bell tower but Poveglia’s past once again reared its ugly head. Patients repeatedly reported sightings of the ghosts of plague victims; but as they were deemed insane by hospital staff their pleas were ignored.

To make things just that little bit worse, the hospital was patrolled by one doctor who took it upon himself to find a cure for insanity. He performed crude lobotomies using drills, chisels and hammers while patients were regularly tortured in the bell tower.

According to legend, the doctor responsible for these inhumane acts began to see the ghosts of patients he’d tortured which pushed him to attempt suicide by jumping from the bell tower. A nurse who witnessed the event said the fall did not kill him and it’s rumoured that the doctor is bricked up in the bell tower and the bell can still sometimes be heard across the bay, despite the hospital being closed.

Today, Poveglia remains an eerie sight from the shores of Venice. Many have tried to purchase the island but have mysteriously never completed the purchase. This is a place deemed to be home of pure evil and somewhere where only the bravest tread.

Would you dare to visit Poveglia? Have you been before? Let us know on our Facebook page. Search for a holiday to Italy with a great package deal from Check back later this week for more spooky destinations.