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Martin Pawley: running a bunker economy

'Our culture is a national asset, our equivalent of oilfields or diamonds,' proclaimed the Italian minister of culture last week. She was expressing her concern at the Jubilee Line Extension-type performance of those responsible for rebuilding Venice's La Fenice opera house after the fire of three years ago. Apparently, without La Fenice and all the architecture, art and antiquities like it, Italy would be done for.

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