Consisting of three close islets, Poveglia is the most extended island among the small ones in the southern lagoon of Venice.
The estate is made of two close islets: to the south lies the Ottagono, an octagonal artificial island built for defensive purposes, equipped with a brick boundary wall and, formerly, with military fortifications; to the north lies the central island, the main one, housing a former health station and some plots of land destined to gardens.
Poveglia, formerly named Popilia, was one of the first settlements in the lagoon. Its history begins in the 5th century when people from Padua fled there following to the barbarian invasions.
Old maps of the 14th and 17th centuries show a church, a belltower, a chaplain’s house, a fenced garden, a park, a well, a house for dockyard workers and the octagonal fortification.
The surviving buildings are mostly hospital pavillons and date back to the period 1900-1945.
Over time the island has significantly become smaller due to storm surges and protracted lack of barriers. Nevertheless, according to the cadastral maps, the current shape is about the same since the 19th century.
Due to prolonged disuse and lack of maintenance, all the surviving buildings are in poor conditions, especially the roofs that are generally collapsed. On the opposite, the solid brick walls have no cracking and even no signs of water seepage, as proof of the good construction quality of the buildings.
The buildings are devoid of technical facilities, doors and windows, or have unserviceable ones. Only in the main building there is an electrical room still functioning.
Thick scrub blocks the light and accentuates the decay of the buildings.
The compound is situated in the southern part of the Venetian Lagoon, in front of Malamocco, a district of the Lido Island. The Poveglia Archipelago is bounded to the north-east by the Canal of Santo Spirito, to the north-west by the Canal of Poveglia and to the south by the deep Canal of Malamocco.
Thanks to the short distance from the port mouth of Malamocco, Poveglia enjoys a privileged location, being easily accessible for the boats arriving from the open sea. Moreover, the surrounding urban fabric is equipped with various infrastructures, including the two main railway stations Venezia Mestre and Venezia Santa Lucia, the highways Venice – Milan and Venice – Trieste, the ports of Venice and Chioggia and the airport Venice Marco Polo.