In these uncertain times for public health, both in Italy and here at home, it is perhaps interesting to look at the history of quarantine.
The practice of ‘quarantine’ began in the 14th century in Venice in an effort to protect themselves from plague epidemics. Ships arriving were required to sit at anchor for for 40 days before entering port. The word quarantine derives from the Italian quaranta giorni which means 40 days.
A lazzaretto is a quarantine station or hospital for maritime travellers and the first one in Italy was established in 1423 in the lagoon. The Lazaretto Vecchio is near the Lido and operated as a plague hospital for over 200 years, later becoming a place of quarantine and contamination of goods. In 1468 by decree of the Senate of La Serenissima a lazzaretto nuovo was established on the island of Vigna Murata as a place of quarantine for arriving vessels. The main building was the second largest in Venice after the Arsenale.