Tourists in Venice may now find a new item as part of their courtesy set when they check in at some Venetian hotels: a bright orange water pistol.
The reason? To stave off seagull attacks.
Seagulls in Venice have become increasingly voracious and aggressive, swooping down on outdoor tables of canal side hotels and cafés to steal food from the plates of unaware tourists.
"We decided to act after a customer lifted a croissant to his mouth and a lurking seagull dived and snatched it from his hand," Enrico Mazzocco, the manager of the Monaco & Grand Canal hotel, told The Times. "On another occasion a gull flew off with an entire steak, just as the waiter lifted the lid off the plate he was serving it on. We started placing the pistols on each table when the gulls start to circle." Seagulls, present in large numbers in coastal cities around the world, find it easier to get food this way rather hunt it for themselves.
While such episodes may sound funny, the problem of seagulls in Venice is real: they have largely increased in numbers, are not afraid of anything, they make sidewalks and street corners dirty, they disturb and attack tourists for food, and may even break glasses and plates.
The raids are almost always carried out by herring gulls, known as magoghe in Venetian dialect. They are much bigger than doves and pigeons, once the majority and now reduced to small flocks, after the previous mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari, forbade grain sellers from Piazza San Marco. The number of pigeons was thus reduced by 50%.
To tackle the seagulls issue, the Venetian Hoteliers' Association has decided to implement the water pistol strategy.
Paolo Lorenzoni, director of the historic Gritti hotel, told Italian news agency ANSA that tourists equipped with water pistols don’t actually need to use them. After trying other solutions, such as placing fake owls around outdoor seating areas, with the only result that seagulls perched on their heads, the association consulted with an expert. Apparently, seagulls don’t like the color orange. It would be enough to just place the orange-colored pistol on the table to scare them away, Lorenzoni told ANSA.
So the next time you’re in Venice, you know what to do if you’re handed a water pistol. Just don't use it to spray unruly tourists.