Located at the entrance of a Venice lagoon, the island of Lazzaretto Nuovo has a rich history that dates back to the Bronze Age. The island was used as a checkpoint, in order to control the waterway into the lagoon and the network of islands located there.
The most notable part of the island’s history is its role as a quarantine area, during the onset of the Black Plague in 1468. The island was declared as a lazaret, giving its name ‘Lazzaretto Nuovo’ or ‘New Lazaret’ to distinguish itself from the existing Lazzaretto Vecchio or ‘Old Lazaret’. Lazzaretto Nuovo was mainly used as a port to isolate incoming ships, arriving from across the Mediterranean seas that were suspected to carry the plague.
The island’s main and second-biggest public structure in all of Venice is the Tezon Grande, which was built in the 16th Century. Over 320 feet tall building is home to various artefacts, including wall paintings and more documenting various pieces of Italy‘s history.
By the 18th century, there was no need for a quarantine island, thus the Lazzaretto Nuovo had a new role to fulfil under Napoleonic rule and later Austrian rule. The island was part of a military fortress system, which was made out of the network of islands across the lagoon. This was to control entry into nearby Lido. The island was fortified with gunpowder towers and more to become an impenetrable fortress. The Tezon was converted to serve as gunpowder warehouse and stilts and guardhouses were built to fortify its walls.
It wasn’t till the 1970’s, when the island become abandoned. Today, the Lazzaretto Nuovo is one of Venice’s rare abandoned islands, which has seen major restoration efforts. Now, it’s home to a number of historical museums and a prime location for archaeological excursions and research initiatives. The Association of Volunteers “EKOS CLUB” often organises historical tours of the island in efforts to build up some tourism traffic there. The many museums located across the island serve as historical reminders of military and plague artefacts.
As for archaeological activity on the island, there are often archaeology summer camps being held there, in order to uncover the island’s various secrets. Most notably are the numerous mass graves that had been created during the quarantine period of the plague. One of the recent discoveries, was a corpse of a woman with a brick wedged in between her mouth, an ancient way to vanquish a certain type of vampire as legends have it.
There are many other secrets to uncover in the shores of Lazzaretto Nuovo that are just waiting to be discovered. Visitors can tour the island by heading there via ferry. Tourists can get there by taking the number 13 ferry from Fondamenta Nove in Venice, You’ll have to specifically request that you want to go to Lazzaretto Nuovo though, as the ferry only stops there upon request.