The Italian comedian-cum-politician Beppe Grillo has a knack for grabbing Italy’s attention — his breathless speeches include colorful criticisms of Germany and France and nicknaming the Italian interim prime minister “Rigor Monti.”

But on Wednesday he made a literal splash, launching the campaign of his anti-austerity Five Star party by swimming through the treacherous strait of Messina to Sicily:

[READ: In Italy, a comedian is getting the last laugh]

Italian Five Star Movement political leader Beppe Grillo takes the start to swim across the Strait of Messina. (ALBANO ANGILETTA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Five-Star Movement activist and comedian Beppe Grillo swims across the Strait of Messina in Sicily as he begins his election campaign on Wednesday. (STRINGER/ITALY/REUTERS)

“Grillo, 64, left the village of Cannitello in Calabria on mainland Italy at about 11 a.m. under a light rain.... Dozens of supporters of his Five-Star Movement trailed Grillo in boats along the 2.2-mile swim. About an hour later he came ashore in Sicily where he was greeted by hundreds of fans,” Bloomberg reported.

The stunt was partly an attention play and partly a protest against plans for a bridge to Sicily from the Italian mainland, according to the AFP.

Grillo will tour Sicily for the next three weeks ahead of the region’s October 28 elections. He will also take part in the country’s general elections next year.

Grillo and his party have grown in popularity as Italy confronts a debt crisis and leadership vacuum.

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