Those of you who have always wanted a top grade Venetian palazzo on a main canal need to act fast; the Palazzo Molin on the Guidecca canal is on the auction block. For $15 to $20 million, this 16th century palazzo (the marble facade, alas, dates only from the 18th) could be yours. (H/t: FT)
Italy’s government, almost two trillion euros in the hole and desperate to raise cash without alienating too many voters is beginning to eye sell-offs of state property like the Palazzo Molin, so there may be other bargains while the sale lasts. Via Meadia would not be averse to a modest palazzo in historic Rome, preferably not too close to the Corso which is a little noisy for our taste. The Villa Borghese would be one possibility, though it is a little far from the center and keeping the grounds up could cost some real money.
More seriously, there are a number of government offices and institutes in Rome which could move to much cheaper digs in the suburbs, reducing traffic in the historic district and raising a lot of money, and all over Italy there are hallowed piles of crumbling stone which the government owns but cannot properly manage.The most important cultural monuments should stay in public hands or be turned over to non-profit groups that would raise money for upkeep and repair but keep the facilities open to the public. However, in principle Via Meadia sees nothing wrong with an Italian decision to pawn some of the lesser jewels in the national crown as a way to stave off financial Armageddon.The one drawback has nothing to do with the concept of land sales; the question is what Italy will do with the money. The inauguration of the euro was a once in a millennium opportunity; the monetary union gave Italy a huge break as the interest rate on its debt fell to near German levels. Patriotic and far sighted government would have used that windfall to reform the creaky Italian state, improve the educational system and cushion the shock of labor market reforms and other changes that would have prepared Italy to prosper in a competitive single market.Instead, the Italian government spent the windfall on wine and roses; now Italy’s interest rates are rising again and the underlying economy is too weak to support the national debt. It seems more likely than not that a mass property sale will involve sweetheart deals for politically connected buyers — and that the money will be wasted on pork barrel projects and subsidies for powerful constituencies. Italy is as capable of wasting this windfall as of squandering the last.There are few countries for which Via Meadia has fonder wishes than for this cradle of civilization, home of the arts and land of friendly people and fine food. But it is very hard to see the political class doing anything constructive with any money that comes its way. Italy has known mostly bad government for 2000 years; the trend seems unlikely to change any time soon.