Saturday, 23 July 2011


Thursday, August 26, 2010

We had reached Venice. From Venice’s Marco Polo airport, we hopped into a water taxi that wound its way towards the Venetian lagoon and as the arches and canals of Venice drew closer, I went and stood by boat’s and prow, soaking in the spray and taking in the vistas. As the famed canals and villas of Venice closed in, I glanced to my left and saw a lonely island drifting by. Tall cypresses stood silently, imprisoned by a boundary-wall that surrounded the island. I asked the boatman, a young man in a baseball cap, about the island but he did not respond. I thought he hadn’t heard me over the din of the motor-boat engine but before I could complete the question a second time, he replied “Cemetery! The dead of Venice are here.” Separated from the bright lights of Venezia by a tongue of water, this island, like a bolt of lightning on a dark night, illuminated a terrible legend that was lost in the recesses of my mind - a forgotten tale of another Venetian island where horrible things had happened. It was the dark side of Venice that I’d forgotten about…“Is this… er… the haunted island?” I asked. The boatman turned, looked at me, blinked and said,“ No… it’s the cemetery.” Then he was quiet. A few awkward minutes passed and then as he navigated the boat into a canal that ran into the city, he said “Poveglia! …That’s haunted!”

Can we see it? Is it nearby? But Pierro, our boatman, shook his head. “No one’s allowed there… not us, not tourists…”. We reached the hotel. My friends picked up our bags and got off the boat. As I too was about to get on to the pier, he motioned for me to stop and moved the boat into open waters. We headed south, south-west, alongside the setting sun, glowing like a portal into another world. The boat stopped.

“Can’t go closer…”He pointed towards the horizon… “There’s Poveglia!” I strained at the horizon but couldn’t see........

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