King for a Day

The fairy-tale lifestyle of the European aristocracy has been moving slowly toward extinction for several generations now. Many of the nobility's historic homes survive, but they're under threat too. Governments don't have the funds to maintain all of them, and few buyers can afford to maintain them as private homes. So what's happening to these stately piles? Many find new lives as luxury hotels.

ITALY As early as 1822, Italian entrepreneur Giuseppe Dal Niel rented the central apartments of the crumbling Venetian Palazzo Dandolo, the 14th century Doge's palace just off the Piazza San Marco. He restored and...

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