Gondoliers-turned-divers scour famed Venice lagoon and canals for trash

“They found all kind of things, including a lot of bicycles and even a bidet,” a local official said. “I doubt tourists bring a bidet to Venice.”

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By Claudio Lavanga

ROME — Gondoliers-turned-divers have scoured Venice's famed lagoon and canals for trash, surfacing part of a stove, an old tape player, a chandelier and even a bidet, among other bits of refuse.

Sunday's dive by eight gondoliers was the fifth of its kind this year. Since February, 2.5 tons of trash has been removed, according to local officials.

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“The gondoliers came up with this idea at the beginning of the year,” Giovanni Giusto, a town councilor, told NBC News. “They see all kind of floating garbage when they are out in the canals, so they proposed to dive in and clean them up to set an example.”

On their first dive in February, Giusto said, the gondoliers dove into the canals with simple diving masks and snorkels, with some inevitably taking in some of the polluted water. Word of the initiative quickly spread, and local businesses lined up to offer proper scuba equipment.

Venice authorities recently announced that from next July, they will introduce a fee for tourists after so-called hit-and-run tourism was blamed for uncivilized behavior in the city. Countless visitors have been caught diving in the canals, urinating in the open or sunbathing in bikinis. In July, the police fined two German tourists brewing coffee on the steps of the Rialto Bridge — the oldest of the four spanning Venice's Grand Canal.

And yet, the type of garbage they retrieved suggests that tourists aren't the worst offenders, Giusto said.

“They found all kind of things, including a lot of bicycles and even a bidet,” Giusto says. “I doubt tourists bring a bidet to Venice with them.”

Among the objects retrieved were hundreds of tires — an unlikely find in a city without roads and cars.

“We Venetians use them as fenders for our boats and piers," Giusto said. "Yet another sign that it’s ourselves we should blame first for the lack of civic sense.”