The Italian Almanac

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Venice's Grand Canal

Italian News - March 5

Venice is selling 13 historic palaces and villas in some of the most sought-after locations on the planet - on the Grand Canal, the Lido and the island of Murano - in an auction that has been greeted with outrage by locals. The real estate on offer includes the Bonfadini-Vivante palace, famous for its neo-classical frescos, and the Foscari Contarini villa, which overlooks the Grand Canal near the Rialto bridge.

There are fears in Venice that the sale will accelerate the 'Disneyfication' of the city, because the villas are most likely to be turned into luxury hotels. 'Venice sells its family jewels', screamed the headline in one local paper.

One of the biggest problems facing the city is the exodus of locals in the face of exorbitant property prices and a lack of work. 'This city is not just for tourists,' said one local. 'It may be very special and it may look beautiful, but it is a place where people live and earn their living in all sorts of ways, and it has to stay that way if it is to stay alive as a community.'

Campaigners hope cash from the sale will inject some economic energy into Venice away from tourism - but are not optimistic. Anna Somers Cocks, who chairs Venice in Peril, said the sale could allow the council to attract high-tech industry and boost housing stock. 'It is a thoroughly good idea but sadly they will inevitably be turned into hotels. People naturally look to make a quick return on their money through tourism.'