This Abandoned Italian Prison Island Will Become A Mediterranean Vacation Spot

Would you consider a vacation to the Italian version of Alcatraz? Officials in Italy have plans to renovate a centuries old prison on a deserted island and turn it into a tourist destination.

July 27, 2021

Santo Stefano Island with its bourbon prison and Cala Nave beach at Sunset, on July 14, 2020 in Ventotene, Italy. [Photo by Alessandra Benedetti - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images]

Santo Stefano Island with its bourbon prison and Cala Nave beach at Sunset, on July 14, 2020 in Ventotene, Italy. [Photo by Alessandra Benedetti - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images]

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The Santo Stefano Prison stands atop a tiny volcanic Island in an archipelago off Italy’s west coast in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The prison has been abandoned since it closed in 1965, though tourists do occasionally make the trek to the remote island.

Unlike Alcatraz’s proximity to San Francisco (just 1.5 miles into the bay), Santo Stefano and its neighboring island, Ventotene, are 28 miles from the coast of mainland Italy.

The Italian government plans to spend $86 million to turn the crumbling facility into a museum and event space. Outbuildings, like the jailer’s quarters, would be turned into a hostel, while other buildings would be turned into restaurants and shops.

The prison, built in the late 1700s, had its 99 cells arranged in 33 blocks on each of three stories, according to CNN. It was the site of revolts and coups, and it housed political prisoners, criminals, and anarchists.

In 1860, inmates actually took control of the prison while the majority of the guards were deployed to fight in the Italian army. The inmates formed a government and wrote laws, naming themselves the Republic of Santo Stefano. Their society existed until Italian soldiers made it back to the island in 1861 and brought the inmates back under control.

The renovations on the prison island are expected to be completed sometime in 2025 and could bring an economic boost to Ventotene, where there are less than 1,000 permanent residents.

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