Silvio Berlusconi has inadvertently revealed a hint of his priorities as Italy's comeback kid by passing a flattering note to two newly elected female politicians while awaiting a crucial vote of confidence in his premiership.
As the self-appointed Lothario prepared his first speech to parliament since being elected Prime Minister for the third time last month, his eye wandered to the parliamentary newcomers, Gabriella Giammanco, 31, and Nunzia De Girolamo, 32.
Oblivious to the television cameras focusing on him, the outlandish leader scrawled the complimentary note, which read: "Gabri, Nunzia, you look very good sitting there together. Thank you for listening, sticking around [for my speech] but it is not necessary. If you have any gallants who have invited you to lunch, I authorise you to go [underlined three times]. Many kisses to both of you!!! Your Prime Minister."
Immediately, the women penned their response, folded it in half and passed it back to the politician. "Our dear Prime Minister," it said, "we can only accept gallant invitations from you!"
Mr Berlusconi, 71, was then seen permitting himself a smile before proceeding with parliamentary business. The news is unlikely to please his long-suffering wife, Veronica Lario, to whom he publicly apologised last year when pictured with a "harem" of women – some on his lap – amid gossip about his womanising.
Mr Berlusconi was also reported to have said to one MP: "If I were not married, I would marry you immediately." To another, he allegedly exclaimed: "With you, I'd go anywhere."
Ms Lario eventually went public in a letter to the newspaper La Repubblica, demanding a "public apology" from her husband for damage to her dignity.