PovegliaCredit: Getty

What's been described as the world's most haunted island has been put up for sale by the Italian government, and could become a luxury hotel.

Poveglia, in the Venice lagoon, is to go up for auction next month on a 99-year lease. It is one of around 150 state-owned properties to go under the hammer in deals expected to raise about €500 million for the cash-strapped government.



The island's macabre story begins in 1793, when a pair of ships arrived in Venice carrying plague victims. Poveglia was chosen as a quarantine site, and continued to house people with infectious diseases for over a century. As many as 100,000 people are believed to have died there. The island's soil is said to be heavily mixed with human ash and bone - so much so that it's five feet higher than it was.

In 1922, Poveglia was converted into a mental hospital, where, the story has it, a mad doctor performed dozens of unnecessary lobotomies before hurling himself to his death from a bell tower, driven mad by the ghosts.

The mental hospital was closed in 1968. Since then, the 17-acre island has stood empty - apart, of course from the ghosts. While locals avoid Poveglia, paranormal investigators can't get enough of it: the island featured in a 2012 episode of Ghost Adventures, for example, during which one of the show's presenters claimed to have become possessed.

In terms of real estate, the island is a gem. Just off the western shore of Venice's Lido, it is cut in two by a canal, and also includes a defensive octagonal building in the sea in front of the main complex of buildings, which are in classical Venetian style. The Italian government describes the buildings as "in a state of poor maintenance" - which is putting it mildly. However, it has promised to streamline the official permit process to allow renovations to proceed quickly.

The auction takes place on May 7th, and there are no guide prices. But while the island's past might put many people off, haunted hotels are big business, with several travel companies even offering ghost-spotting weekends. One famously-haunted hotel is currently on the market in Scotland for £2.25 million - although the agent makes no mention of its ghost.