Russians show most interest in Venice island

The sale of an island in the Venetian lagoon is mostly attracting interest from Russian buyers, although whoever ends up buying the 16th century Ottagonali Alberoni will live next door to what is known as the most haunted place in Italy.

Russians show most interest in Venice island
Ottagonali Alberoni was built in the 16th century. Photo: Ducati Case

The octagonal-shaped island, called ‘Big Tree Octagon’ in English, is one of five built in the 16th century to defend Venice from naval attack.

The island remained a military base until World War Two, after which it was privately bought.

It has now been put up for sale by the heirs of the original buyer, who passed away.

Spread across 2,000 square metres, it has come onto the market with a ten-bedroom property and another smaller home. 

“We have had some interest, not a huge amount, but enough,” Sebastiano Cavalieri Ducati, the owner of the Milan-based property agency, Ducati Case, told The Local.

“The interest has come mostly from abroad…mostly from Russia.”

Ducati declined to confirm the asking price.

The fortified island also comes with a chapel-like structure and a small square with a well in the centre, surrounded by benches, as well as the lush greenery that gave the island its name. 

The advertisement on the real estate website,, also highlights the wonderful views of the lagoon, its proximity to an exclusive golf club, and how easy it is to reach Lido island, the location of the Venice Film Festival.

But what it fails to mention is that an uninhabited island – Poveglia, one of the five octagonal islands, and described as the most haunted place in Italy – is just across the water.

Poveglia is home to an abandoned hospital, which is rumoured to have hosted experiments on the mentally ill, including crude lobotomies, between 1922 and 1968. The hospital’s director is 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.

Meanwhile, 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.

But that didn’t stop an Italian businessman from buying Poveglia after the cash-strapped Italian government auctioned it off with a 99-year redevelopment lease last year.

Read more: Businessman buys Italy's 'haunted island'

By Louise Naudé


Italy to pay €57m compensation over Venice cruise ship ban

The Italian government announced on Friday it would pay 57.5 million euros in compensation to cruise companies affected by the decision to ban large ships from Venice's fragile lagoon.

A cruise ship in St Mark's Basin, Venice.
The decision to limit cruise ship access to the Venice lagoon has come at a cost. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The new rules, which took effect in August, followed years of warnings that the giant floating hotels risked causing irreparable damage to the lagoon city, a UNESCO world heritage site.

READ ALSO: Venice bans large cruise ships from centre after Unesco threat of ‘endangered’ status

Some 30 million euros has been allocated for 2021 for shipping companies who incurred costs in “rescheduling routes and refunding passengers who cancelled trips”, the infrastructure ministry said in a statement.

A further 27.5 million euros – five million this year and the rest in 2022 – was allocated for the terminal operator and related companies, it said.

The decision to ban large cruise ships from the centre of Venice in July came just days before a meeting of the UN’s cultural organisation Unesco, which had proposed adding Venice to a list of endangered heritage sites over inaction on cruise ships.

READ ALSO: Is Venice really banning cruise ships from its lagoon?

Under the government’s plan, cruise ships will not be banned from Venice altogether but the biggest vessels will no longer be able to pass through St Mark’s Basin, St Mark’s Canal or the Giudecca Canal. Instead, they’ll be diverted to the industrial port at Marghera.

But critics of the plan point out that Marghera – which is on the mainland, as opposed to the passenger terminal located in the islands – is still within the Venice lagoon.

Some aspects of the plan remain unclear, as infrastructure at Marghera is still being built. Meanwhile, smaller cruise liners are still allowed through St Mark’s and the Giudecca canals.

Cruise ships provide a huge economic boost to Venice, but activists and residents say the ships contribute to problems caused by ‘overtourism’ and cause large waves that undermine the city’s foundations and harm the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.