A few days ago I spotted an unusual rodent down by the Arno river. It’s called a nutria. Although native to South America (where they are called coypu), they were introduced into Italy and other parts of Europe as part of the fur trade. When the fur trade collapsed several decades ago, many of them were released into the wild. I have also heard it said that they were introduced into European countries after World War II to help feed the poor, thus the name Nutria. They are semi-acquatic, and actually get around better in the water than they do on land.
They are about a 1.5 to 2 feet long (plus a 10 inch tail) and about a foot tall, which makes them smaller than a beaver but larger than a muskrat. It took me about 3 weeks in Florence to spot one, but it has been extraordinarily cold. When you come to visit, you’ll have to keep an eye out for them.