The Visitors

The first chill of autumn, which reminds us locals to order firewood from the mainland for our illegal fireplaces, is always a moment of reckoning. Not for nothing does the Russian Aesop, Krylov, in his fable of the socially responsible ant and the bohemian dragonfly, suggest that such a moment has arrived when a wintry blast gets in the eyes of the homeless idealist, hi my own case, however, the fault is not entirely mine. It seems ages since I started looking for a new apartment, and ages since I began rehearsing the many explanations—some more interesting than "Well, you know, you have to pay the rent . . . "—of the difficulty of finding one. Last time, I described what it's like to try to wrest an apartment from a born-and-bred Venetian. Now, I'd like to suggest what happens when the owner of the house is a Venetian by adoption.

Let us unfold a little scenario that involves a socially well-connected visitor to Italy, with a cast of mind typical of what was once called the Fifth Avenue matron. Her daughter, who was at Brown, is an active supporter of Save Venice and has written about it in her alumni notes. Her younger brother, an antiques dealer in the Fulham Road in London, has just returned from Nencia Corsini's wedding in Florence. Her husband is an investment banker from Short Hills, New Jersey. They travel to Europe several times a year, know Italians with residences in Manhattan and Mayfair,...

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