Poveglia is a small island located between Venice and Lido in the Venetian lagoon in northern Italy. It has a macabre history of disease and death and is notorious as a place of unprecedented horror throughout the years, with over 160,000 people having died there.
Dating as far back as Roman times Poveglia's primary use was as a quarantine station and lazzaretto for plague victims, lepers, and others who were deemed unsuitable to reside amongst the populace. During Europe's first outbreak of the bubonic plague in the 12th century, the impact on Venice's population was unprecedented. The dead piled up in the streets and the stench became unbearable. Local authorities decided to have the staggering number of diseased bodies hauled away and dumped on Poveglia. Eventually even still-living victims were dragged kicking and screaming from their homes and tossed amidst the putrefying corpses piling up on the island to suffer in agony until they too perished.
In 1922 a mental hospital was built on Poveglia. Local legend has it that a black-hearted doctor tortured and killed countless patients there before losing (or taking) his own life. Accounts vary on how the doctor died; some have him being thrown to his death from a bell tower by vengeful insane patients, others claim he committed suicide. One popular rumour has him being thrown from the tower but surviving the fall, only to be "strangled by a mist that came up from the ground". The ruins of the hospital remain to this day.
Today, Poveglia is a grotesque festering blemish on the pristine lagoon of Venice, its dark history providing scary tales for the locals to share but little else. It is said that part of the island’s core consists of a layer of human remains and that fishermen avoid the area because they may pull up body parts. The island is used for farming by locals (primarily vineyards) and is off-limits to tourists.