My Trip to Poveglia
There’s a group of three small islands in the Venice lagoon known as Poveglia (po-VAYL-ya), which is supposed to be one of the most haunted places on Earth. It was used as a place to bury the dead during the plague, and later was used as the location for an insane asylum. One of the islands is said to be composed of about 50% human ash, as they burned thousands of corpses of those who died during the plague.
Venetians are generally afraid of it, and few people will take you there. It’s long abandoned, the buildings are in a state of severe decay, and the island is covered in trees and a thick growth of vines and blackberry bushes. It’s impenetrable, except for a few narrow paths.
I met a nice young couple who had found a tour company to take them there. Actually, there was no tour, and no guide, and we never saw a representative of this company. When we showed up at the appointed place, which was one of the taxi stands near St. Mark’s, there was only a taxi driver waiting for us.
We got into the boat and introduced ourselves. I told them I wrote horror novels. I hadn’t thought about the affect this might have, but immediately the young woman became apprehensive. Maybe even downright afraid. She was heading to an abandoned haunted island with a man they didn’t know, who writes horror. It would have scared me, too.
She said it was a great start to a novel. The nice innocent twenty-something couple from Canada go to the most haunted place in the world with the old horror writer guy. She told me that it would have to have a happy ending, so far as they were concerned. I told her that that’s not how it works.
We had a lovely ride across the lagoon. Then in the island came into sight, marked by a bell tower, and a thick growth of vines, bushes, and trees. The driver dropped us off at a pier at about 8:30 am, and promised to come back at 1:00 pm to get us.
The girl took comfort in the fact that there were several sail boats moored near the island. They often go there because it’s quiet and out of the way. So, she could scream for help should the need arise.
We began our exploration by walking about the perimeter. We soon came to a building and went in. It was full of old abandoned equipment, and we determined that it had been the laundry.
After exploring several spooky and debris-scattered rooms, we ventured off into the jungle that makes up most of the island.
For an abandoned island where it’s technically not legal to go, the paths through the bush are well defined, for the most part. There were a few places where I had to use my little Leatherman scissors to cut blackberry vines, but we generally found decent paths.
As we walked, hundreds of little lizards scurried out of our way, making an eerie rushing noise through the underbrush. A little before noon we were tired and hungry, and stopped in a shady brick boathouse to have lunch. I had brought a bottle of wine, some cheese, bread sticks, and prosciutto. We sat and ate and drank and had a very nice time.
I was impressed that this young couple came to Venice and found the most unusual thing to do you could think of. No one else they know, or I know, will have done it. Most importantly, they love Venice.
All in all, I didn’t find Poviglia all that spooky. I was more concerned with being injured by the debris on the floor, or by part of the ceiling falling on us. I didn’t feel any presences, and was never afraid. The scariest thing that happened was when a young man who was part of a group filming a music video jumped screaming out of the bushes with two machetes. He thought that was pretty funny.
I’ll let the photos say the rest.