Poveglia, Isle of the Dead

One of the most atmospheric places on Earth is about to get an unfortunate makeover. Ever since the 5th century AD, when citizens of Padua and Este fled there to escape the barbarian hordes, this small island in the Venetian Lagoon has served as a haunted place of exile. Apocryphal tales abound of its role during the Black Death, but archaeological confirmation still awaits. In the 18th century it became a check point for all goods and people entering the Venetian port. When two ships full of plague victims landed, Poveglia’s role as a place of quarantine became official and lasted well into the 20th century, when it was converted into one of Italy’s most infamous insane asylums. A paradise for intrepid urban explorers, the island boasts (or boasted, at the time of this writing) a terrifying array of abandonments, including a 15th-century castle, a 17th-century fort, a church, a hospital, an asylum, a prison, a bell-tower/lighthouse, several plague pits and the remains of at least 100,000 individuals. In April, however, the Italian government offered a 99-year lease of the island to whichever demented individual ponies up the half-billion euro asking price. Here’s to hoping for a preservationist buyer.