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The Colosseum in Rome.
The Colosseum in Rome.
(BEATRICE LARCO/Associated Press)

Eric Reguly

By selling its palace in Rome, Canada harms its global clout

Alex Himelfarb, a former clerk of the Privy Council who was Canada’s ambassador to Italy from 2006 and 2009, always punched above his diplomatic weight. That’s in good part because he fully exploited Canada’s best asset in Italy – the glorious Villa Grandi official residence in Rome.

The villa, built in 1934 on ancient property near the start of the Appian Way, the Roman empire’s most important strategic road, was the envy of most of his fellow ambassadors. The elegant house itself, covering 13,000 square feet, was not actually the main draw. It was the property, on four acres of meticulously groomed and lush rolling land within the 3rd Century Aurelian walls. The landscape featured part of the Appian Way and the tennis court was built over the ruins of a Roman house.