Since moving to Venice, it has been a great desire of mine to visit the mysterious island of Poveglia, with its ruined mental asylum and haunted burial grounds. Finally, yesterday, thanks to two wonderful skippers Luca and Jacopo, and accompanied by fellow journalist and writer Robin Saikia I managed to visit the island.
Robin Saikia writes: "Shortly before we left Poveglia, I forced myself to lie on an iron bed in the ruins of the psychiatric ward, recalling the images of the day: the desecrated chapel with the scabrous remains of its cheerful Tiepolo-blue ceiling, the claustrophobic corridors, the rusting beds and lockers, the quay, the bell-tower, the woods, the bridge. I closed my eyes tightly for a few long seconds. When I opened them, I saw a very clear picture of hell..."
The island of Poveglia, with its ruined hospital and plague burial grounds, is said to be the most haunted location in the world. Though the island is a multi-million dollar piece of real estate, it remains deserted and off limits to the public. Its dark, derelict and forbidding shores are only minutes away from the glamour of the Venice Film Festival on the Lido, but there are few visitors. Very few Venetians are prepared to talk about the island or answer questions. They believe that while the rest of Venice is governed by the Comune di Venezia, Poveglia remains firmly in the Devil’s jurisdiction. They see it as a kind of supernatural penitentiary, an outpost of purgatory and hell. This view is captured in an unnerving local saying: quando muore un cattivo, si sveglia a Poveglia; when an evil man dies, he wakes up in Poveglia. I visited the island in August this year with the photographer Marco Secchi. Our account is a drawing together of truth, half-truth, speculation and urban myth. It is based on conversations with local people and our exploration of the island. It is an attempt to make sense of the fear and revulsion that Poveglia continues to provoke, despite the best attempts of sceptics to exorcise its ghosts with the bell, book and candle of reason. (Robin Saikia)
Robin Saikia is the author of the highly acclaimed book, The Venice Lido, recently published by Blue Guides (http://thevenicelido.com). Please contact us to discuss licensing our 4000 word photo documentary of the island, words by Robin Saikia, photography by Marco Secchi. firstname.lastname@example.org