ROME: "Dear Editor," began a letter published on 31 January on the front page of La Repubblica, the newspaper that Silvio Berlusconi hates most. The scalding letter demanded an apology from Berlusconi for flirting publicly — and it was signed by his wife.
And so, a nation bored and a little down at its return to semi-normal politics woke to a juicy news cycle with an inescapable conclusion: In or out of power, Berlusconi may behave reprehensibly, but Italy cannot keep its eyes off him.It turns out that the 70-year-old former prime minister, whose own heart now beats with a pacemaker, attended an awards ceremony last week and was overly friendly with two young and beautiful guests.
"If I weren't already married, I would marry you right now," he told one, according to Italian news media accounts. To another, he said: "With you I would go anywhere.These are statements I consider damaging to my dignity," wrote Veronica Lario, 50, who has been with Berlusconi for 27 years. His remarks could not be "reduced to jokes," she said.
"To my husband and to the public man, I therefore ask for a public apology, not having received one privately."Then, in early evening, Berlusconi wrote his own open letter: "Your dignity should not be an issue: I will guard it like a precious material in my heart even when thoughtless jokes come out of my mouth," he wrote. "But marriage proposals, no, believe me, I have never made one to anyone.
"Forgive me, however, I beg of you, and take this public testimony of private pride that submits to your anger as an act of love. One among many. A huge kiss. Silvio."Beppe Severgnini, one of the most prescient commentators on Italian mores, quickly churned out a column for Corriere della Sera summing up its import."The man is a walking oxymoron, but it has not stopped him from working his way up," he wrote. "Why? Simple: because he embodies the Italian dream of being everything, of pleasing everyone (and indulging himself in everything), without giving up anything."