Arriving in Venice, the American actor and humourist Robert Benchley famously cabled his editor on The New Yorker to say

“Streets full of water. Please advise.”

For the public sector utilities providers it is no laughing matter, for whereas their English equivalents will dig up a road at a moments notice, the planning and organisation required to drain a canal, protect the wooden piling beneath, and then attend to cabling or pipework without disturbing existing conduits is doubtless a real headache.  What’s more, for all of its antiquity, this is a city which has all the same needs as any other modern conurbation; water, electric, gas, fibre-optics… though sewage is treated differently.  There are thousands of septic tanks (pozzi neri or black wells)  below properties in the city which are pumped out by special contractors, the rest of the waste water goes straight into the canals.  Maybe a swim doesn’t seem like such a good idea.



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