The Third Leader: Water torture

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Venice, we reveal today, is among Italian cities considering an entry charge to deter yet more visitors and defray cleaning up after the undeterred. Some will lament this restriction on access to beauty and knowledge, but I refuse to get too worked up about it, and not just because I've already been.

In my view, pace Polo, most doges, Byron, Wordsworth, Ruskin, William Morris, Jan Morris, and probably many other Morrises as well, it's possible to get too excited about Venice. Beauty, melancholy, liquid, lapidary, La Serenissima, The Paradise of Cities; but, perhaps, also, a bit full of itself as well as water. They have, for example, just asked the gondoliers to stop singing "O Sole Mio" because it's a Neapolitan song.

It will be no ice creams next. So, given other prevalent present factors, should we not be considering more earthbound pleasures? Birmingham, as is well known, has more canals than Venice; it also has the National Sea Life Centre by the side of one, featuring undersea voyages, sharks, stingrays and playful otters.

Art? Well, I once followed Rupert Murdoch round the Accademia in Venice, and, frankly, he didn't look that impressed. He should try some of Birmingham's galleries: the Barber Institute, say, has, among many other masters, Rembrandt, Poussin, Turner, Monet and Picasso. As for the Biennale, try Liverpool's next month, pal.

More canals? Britain's canals are now busier than they were during the Industrial Revolution, transporting tourists with delight and delights. Time for less cultural cringing, more celebration of home attractions. Did you know that Blackpool has more holiday beds than the whole of Portugal? And you can sing what you like.

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