An Italian businessman has acquired the leasehold of Venice’s Isola Poveglia at auction, enraging a local community group who are already calling upon the government to overturn his winning bid.
A Venetian conservation group’s international campaign to protect Italy’s infamous “plague island” appears to have ended in tears, with media reports in Great Britain suggesting that the 99-year long leasehold of Isola Poveglia has been acquired by the president of basketball team Reyer Venezia Mestre, businessman Luigi Brugnaro.
Despite successfully sourcing donations to the tune of EUR 420,000, the fundraising efforts of the Poveglia Association conservation group was sadly not enough to match the spending power of Mr. Brugnaro, who – supported by the wealth of the Umana Holding Group – secured the 18.6 acre island’s leasehold for an incredible EUR 513,000.
Referred to only as “Mister X” throughout the bidding, the unveiling of Mr. Brugnaro as the island’s buyer appears to confirm the worst fears of the Poveglia Association, who – as reported in Private Island News last month – had expressed concern that the island would be seized by developers and transformed into an exclusive resort – plans that Brugnaro has dismissed as lies.
In an interview with Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, Brugnaro brushed off suggestions that the island is earmarked for a luxury development, adding that “the Association of Poveglia or any other public group will find my door wide open for discussions or ideas. Obviously, I have my own ideas too, but we want to deal with the Committee and to hear the people from the city.”
Yet despite receiving these assurances, the Poveglia Association is already planning a new wave of protests, calling upon the Italian Government to intervene and overturn Mr. Brugnaro’s bid. The government has 30 days to ratify the decision and “we will insist that the offer is turned down,” explained Lorenzo Pesola, the association’s leader.
The conflict surrounding Poveglia has echoes of the recent “Battle for Budelli,” in which New Zealand businessman Michael Harte’s private island dream was turned into a private island nightmare after a conservation group placed pressure on politicians to invoke their so-called “first right of refusal,” high-jacking his plans to purchase Isola Budelli.
The developments have led to a particularly interesting debate across Italy, pitting conservationists and nationalists – who worry about the land ending up in the hands of foreign investors – against developers and conservative economists, who view the sale of state-owned land as a vital opportunity to create jobs and plug the huge deficits in Italy’s national budget.
With a further 45 state-owned properties – including the palaces, an army barracks and a 15th century castle in Isonzo – head to the auction block in the coming weeks and months, the conflict is all but certain to flare up again before the year is out. Whether a case as controversial as Isola Poveglia will arise remains to be seen though.
The saga surrounding the world’s most haunted island looks set to continue. Stay tuned to Private Island News to keep up with all the latest dramatic developments and have your say on our social media channels. You’ll find us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.