There are no museums or other tourist attractions on offer in the uninhabited Poveglia, just an abandoned hospital – rumoured to have hosted experiments on the mentally sick – and tales of people being possessed by ghosts.
But residents in the nearby Giudecca are campaigning to save the island, which is currently closed to visitors, from the clutches of ruthless developers, Il Fatto Quotidiano reported.
The Italian government is set to auction Poveglia on May 7th and is offering the buyer a 99-year-lease to redevelop it, with the hope of the hospital being turned into a luxury hotel.
Campaigners have set up Association Poveglia and are calling on locals to club together, each donating €99, in a bid to raise the €20,000 needed to participate in the auction.
“We want the island to remain public,” Lorenzo Pesola, one of the association’s founders, was quoted in Il Fatto Quotidiano as saying.
“If our offer to the state is the best, then those who have subscribed to the association will manage the island, democratically, for a public purpose.”
If they lose the auction, the money will be refunded. The campaign's Facebook page, called Poveglia per tutti (Poveglia for everyone) has so far attracted 4,868 'likes'.
A report in The Telegraph newspaper on Tuesday described Poveglia as “one of the most haunted places in Italy”.
The island was home to a hospital for the elderly between 1922 and 1968, during which time experiments on the mental ill, including crude lobotomies, were rumoured to have taken place, the newspaper said. The hospital's director is also said to have killed himself after "being driven mad" by ghosts.
The island was also used as a quarantine station for people with infectious diseases in the 18th century after a plague was found on two ships.
An American TV presenter who visited the island for the Travel Channel series Ghost Adventures claimed to have been briefly possessed by a ghost there, the newspaper added.
Four other state-owned properties are being auctioned or sold, rather than leased, including a monastery in Tarano, Puglia, abd a 15th century castle in Gradisca d’Isonzo, close to the Slovenian border.