The Lazzaretto Nuovo is an island of about nine hectares, of which 3500 m2 built up, located in the northern part of the Venice Laguna. For centuries it was one of the doorways to Venice, a place of cultural and commercial exchange, technologically advanced, like a little innovation citadel. Today, it is an ecomuseum, visited each year by thousands of people from all over the world, a dynamic center and laboratory engaged in educating and sharing with the community. Getting to know the city, the laguna and the islands, according to the no-profit “The rebirth of an island” program.
Situated at the entrance to the Laguna, three kilometers northeast of Venice, since ancient times the island has probably been a strategic point for controlling the waterways leading inland. It lies along the inland waterway that connected the important Roman cities of Ravenna and Altino. Archeological digs have turned up evidence of human habitation in the Bronze Age, and the first mention in a written document goes back to 1015: a notarial deed in which the island is called “Vigna Murada” [TN: "Walled vineyard"].
At the end of the eleventh century, the island came into the hands of the Benedictine monks of San Giorgio Maggiore, who built a church dedicated to St. Bartholomew. The Vigna Murada was a monastery with cultivated fields, surrounded by saltmarsh. In medieval times, salt was an important product in the northern Laguna, with the main production center located in Torcello.
-Health care facility-
In 1468 the Senate of the Republic of Venice issued a decree mandating the construction of a Lazzaretto on the island, to prevent contagion, which was to be known as “Novo” in order to distinguish it from the one already instituted near the Lido (known as “Vecchio”, or old), where evident cases of plague were sent. The island became the site of “contumacia”: the system of “quarantine“ was enforced here, for ships arriving from various ports in the Mediterranean suspected of carrying disease. Many buildings were erected to make the facility more efficient and avoid crowding, and broad roofed-over areas known as “teze” were set up to sanitize the cargoes.
During the seventeen hundreds, the island’s use as a health care facility gradually diminished. With the advent of Napoleon and then under Austrian rule, in the eighteen hundreds it was converted to military use, becoming part of the laguna defense system. The buildings were demolished or repurposed, the walls were reinforced with gatehouses and embrasures, Istrian stone ramparts and external earthworks were added. The Lazzaretto Nuovo was linked to the “Testa di Ponte” and the Torre Massimiliana of St. Erasmus, the island opposite it.
Used by the Italian Army until the early seventies and then decommissioned, it is one of the few lesser islands in the Laguna to have benefited from a concerted recovery project. Owned by the city and overseen by the Ministry of Culture, since 1977 the island has been in concession to the Ekos Club association, in partnership with the Venetian Chapter of the Archeoclub d’Italia, which has organized the summer archeological camps since 1988. In the past forty years, the presence and efforts of these associations have returned the asset to the public and lobbied for public and private backing, raising several million euro for interventions aimed at establishing a museum.
The island is open to the public from April to October. In addition to offering a wide variety of activities, it also serves – free of charge – as the official Deposit for archeological materials found in the Laguna of the Department of Archeology, Arts and the Landscape. It houses one of the first plant purification systems in Italy, fruit of pilot project presented at Expo 2000, in Hanover. It is part of the municipal museum circuit and is included in the Educational Itineraries of the City of Venice.