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Lazareto and Tagomago, the Balearics' lesser-known islands
Tuesday, October 19, 2021 @ 10:50 AM

TO PREVENT contagion, authorities sent suspected cases to quarantine on one of the Balearic Islands, including any arrivals from countries with a high incidence of infection. Whilst there, they could visit the 'Tower of Whispers', the panoramic viewing point and the museum, then after they were restored to health or disease-free, they were allowed to continue on their journey.

Lush gardens and beautiful architecture - the perfect spot for quarantining (this photo and pictures 4, 5 and 6 from the island's official website, Lazareto de Mahón)

All this sounds very much like a review of summer package holidays in 2020 – but was actually a snapshot from the late 18th century, which shows history has an eerie habit of repeating itself.

The poetic-sounding Lazareto Island was purpose-built for isolating contagious conditions in 1794, and 227 years on, is now a major tourist attraction just outside the port of Mahón, or Maó, the capital town of Menorca.

Although the name, in translation, is far less beautiful: From the Italian Lazzaretto, sometimes referred to by the French Lazarette, it in fact means 'quarantine station' or 'leprosy unit'.

To this end, other walled-off outposts for quarantining patients with bubonic plague, leprosy, yellow fever, typhus, cholera and similar diseases elsewhere in Spain are known as lazaretos.

But you cannot always judge an island by its title. Lazareto is a lush green haven with an elegant sandstone fortress in its centre and splendid Baroque and neo-classical architecture, and an official national heritage site.

Once a sanatorium for patients with contagious illnesses, the fortress - and, in fact, the whole island - are now official national heritage sites (photo: Menorca tourism board)

Nowadays, it is used for global conferences, political meetings, and the site of a university-level summer school in science subjects – as well as regular guided tours, given that it is one of the Balearic Islands' most popular visitor attractions.

Created by order of King Carlos III's minister, the Count of Floridablanca, referred to in the Balearic languages – of which menorquín is one – as a Llatzeret, this stunning, verdant corner of paradise was still owned by Spain's national health authorities until 2015 when it was handed over to Menorca's island council, or Consell Insular.

Before and since, it has been a backdrop for screen productions – the most recent being the episode of MasterChef aired today (Monday, October 18).



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