I have a mild obsession with Italy. I love the food, the language, the movies and their ongoing preoccupation with progressive rock is something that I can appreciate. It’s a nation and a culture that seems to put a hefty value on the things in life that really matter. Every image I have of the nation was either informed by the crime films of Fulci and Lenzi. When I think of Rome, I think of Fellini. I think of the countryside and colors come to mind, like vivid greens and earth tones and even though I fucking loathe wine of any stripe, the thought of Italy makes me want to give it another shot even though I’m certain that I’m going to hate it. Everybody has a dark side, though, and Italy is no exception.
Poveglia is an island situated in the lagoon of Venice in Northern Italy and it has a really nasty reputation. See, in the 1500’s epidemic plagues had found their way to Italy again and the island became a quarantine zone for sailors seeking port in Venice. Sanitary conditions during this period of the middle ages were pretty bad and just about everywhere you went was a prime breeding pit for disease. Venice was mad obsessed with sanitation at the time and even though they managed to contain the victims on Poveglia, the city still lost half of its population during The Black Plague’s last great push through Europe. Oh yeah, I didn’t mention that yet, did I? Poveglia began as a lazaretto and became a holding pen for anybody even so much as suspected of having plague symptoms. It didn’t matter who you were, if it looked like you getting sick, off you went to Poveglia to die a miserable animal’s death and when the pile of bodies got too high, they toss the corpses in a pit and set fire to it. There are some serious mass graves throughout Europe; in places like Germany and Poland. They’re still turning up pits of corpses in the Baltics. The leftovers from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia is also pretty heavy but none of them hold a candle to Poveglia. 50% of the island’s soil is made up of human remains. Bones routinely wash up on the shore and in the nets of sailors who fish too close to the island. Poveglia is a place of profound suffering. The estimated body count there was somewhere in the neighborhood of 160,000 and as a result has come to be known to paranormal enthusiasts as a “thin place”, where the membrane between here and the other side is particularly thin and while a shit ton of people exited through the plague pits of Poveglia, a lot of nasty energy was left behind and a lot of nasty energy came back through to influence and corrupt the events of the future.
Following the ebb of disease, the island was left mostly uninhabited. Being the place where over a hundred thousand people went to die, you gain a reputation and nobody wants to live in a place like that. With the exception of a couple of farmers tending to the particularly awesome crops that came as a result of rich soil infused with the remains of a shit ton of terminally ill people, nobody lives there. In 1922 a sort of retirement home was established there where local indigents went to wait out their final years. A portion of the newly built facility was dedicated to the mentally ill, as luck would have it. Legends of Poveglia state that the occupants of this home, not just the crazy ones, reported hearing sounds and seeing things. It’s all stock ghost story stuff, strange lights, apparitions, sounds of wailing, crying and screaming. 160,000 souls locked down to a place on Earth so rancid they can’t move on. Poveglia’s dire reputation affected the staff of the hospital, too, allegedly. An unnamed doctor in the island’s mental facility experimented on his patients, urged on by their babbling about plague victims, he developed sick and savage new ways to lobotomize his patients until his suicide attempt put the kibosh on continued medical malpractice. The unnamed doctor, suffering from what he thought were his own hallucinations, plunged from the hospital’s bell tower and managed to barely survive the fall. Disappointed, Poveglia’s non-corporeal population rose up from the ground as a mist and finished the job by choking him to death.
At least that’s how the story goes.
Since that time, there have been attempts to buy the land from the government, which is off limits to visitors. Private buyers have, on occasion, bought the island, moved in and then booked it the fuck out shortly thereafter, perpetuating the mythology of this black mark on the planet. To this day, Italy shows no sign of relinquishing the location to anyone. Business deals go sour. People move in and more out and it’s said that one such buyer beat a hasty retreat when their daughter sustained a mysterious facial injury requiring 20 stitches. Since that time, Poveglia has remained closed and rotting.