Venice’s Grand Canal Is Currently Neon Green. Here’s Why.

The northern Italian city’s waters are looking murkier than usual

fluorescent green waters below the Rialto Bridge in Venice's Grand Canal
St. Patrick's Day much?
ANSA/AFP via Getty Images

Something’s lurking in the water of Venice’s Grand Canal, and that something has made the water neon green. The vivid water stumped the authorities for a few days, but they finally know what turned it the unsightly hue. Test samples taken from the canal this week confirmed that a chemical substance called fluorescein turned the water green, and now Italian officials are trying to find out how it got there in the first place.

It’s unclear if the police have pinpointed any suspects, but president of the Veneto region, Luca Zaia, does worry that copycats could be encouraged to play similar pranks.

“Venice, like other iconic places in the Veneto region, has such visibility that actions like this” could attract “‘characters’ in search of publicity,” Zaia wrote on Facebook, as reported by The New York Times. “We must protect the city, its monuments, everyone’s right to enjoy its historical treasures free of the marks left by rowdy individuals.”

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The good news is that the fluorescein found in the canal wasn’t toxic when tested. Sometimes it’s even used in medical eye exams, per the Times.

This isn’t the first time that fluorescein was added to Venice’s canals. Argentine artist Nicolás García Uriburu turned the Grand Canal green with the substance in 1968 to “bring attention to the relationship between nature and civilization and to promote ecological consciousness as a critical part of culture,” according to The Met. After he completed his art piece, the color faded after about a day, but it could take a few more than that for the current color in the canal to fade, depending on how much was added.

It’s always something with poor Venice — hopefully this prank will be the biggest of their troubles for a while.


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