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VENICE (Reuters Life!) - Venetians woke up on Monday to find that one of the symbols of their world famous lagoon city -- the Grand Canal -- had been stolen.
"The Grand Canal has been snatched," was the way several newspaper headlines put it.
It seems that a new national law intended to get rid of old, out-of-date provisions that have been on the books since Italy was a monarchy also transferred ownership of the canal from the city to the national government.
Worse still, it was part of a package promoted by Roberto Calderoli -- whose title is Simplification Minister -- even though the provision left many Venetians scratching their heads.
Calderoli is a key member of the Northern League party, whose federalist battle cry is that the central government in Rome must give power back to regions.
In fact, the League's mantra is "Roma Ladrona," (Rome the big thief).
The new provision abolished, among other old laws, a decree by King Victor Emmanuel III nearly 107 years ago transferring ownership of the 4,000-meter (yards) long canal to Venice.
Venetians were irate enough that former regional governor and current Agriculture Minister Giancarlo Galan said he would be the first one to fight for the measure to be changed so that the city of Venice remains the official owner of the canal.
But Calderoli assured Venetians that it would all be worked out and that ownership of the canal, which is flanked by some of the world's greatest architecture and plied by the famed black gondolas, would be returned.
Writing by Philip Pullella, editing by Paul Casciato