It's been one of the more extraordinary vanishing acts of modern politics, comparable to the rare sightings of Chairman Mao in his dotage and the confusion before the Iraq war over whether that was Saddam on the podium or one of his stand-ins. But this weekend Silvio Berlusconi, who has been out of sight since before Christmas on a holiday to rival the one Dubya took last summer, is pledged to return to the limelight for a lavish rally to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his party, Forza Italia.
And, according to reports, he will be at least 10kg (22lb) lighter. During the sojourn at his Sardinian villa, the Prime Minister is not only reported to have had plastic surgery to remove wrinkles and reduce the bags under his eyes but has been following what is described as a Tibetan diet.
Many of the items on it are not in fact obtainable in Tibet, but it claims to be based on oriental principles of medicine.
Mr Berlusconi's day begins with glass of boiled water. Three litres of mineral water are drunk during the day. Prescribed items include spinach and other greens, unripe bananas, pomegranates and raw chestnuts. For his main course, Mr Berlusconi is permitted raw veal and lean fish. Forbidden are alcohol, spices, milk and fat cheese.
Professor Andrea Mangano, a nutrition specialist at the University of Siena who has been advising Berlusconi, said the diet had worked wonders.