For sale: the kitsch of corruption

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The Independent Online
GOT a piece of the Berlin Wall? A red hammer-and-sickle flag? A broken bust of Lenin? Now you can buy a table where big names in Italy's Tangentopoli corruption scandals sat, a portable podium used by Bettino Craxi or even a villa near Rome where the Communists trained their cadres. For souvenir- hunters of Europe's late-20th century revolutions a whole new vista has opened up: Italy's 'cashmere revolution'.

In Rome and Milan they are selling half a century's worth of 'polit- kitsch' from a regime that vanished almost as fast as those in the East. Postcards, flags and posters of the defunct Christian Democrats, earrings, ties, brooches, T-shirts with the red carnation of their near-extinct Socialist allies, scarves, aprons, stickers and umbrellas with the hammer and sickle of the Communist Party.

Dove, a glossy leisure magazine, has tracked down many relics of the old political world. The biggest goldmine is the old Socialist party, thanks to its amazing extravagance (we know now where the money came from) and the personality cult of its leader, Mr Craxi - and its richest vein is the studio of the architect Filippo Panseca, the scene- setter of Mr Craxi's triumphalistic party congresses.

You want the Berlin Wall? It, or rather a replica, was Mr Panseca's backcloth for the 1990 party congress in Rimini. Alas the polystyrene original has already gone but Mr Panseca sells 10-metre copies on linen for 20m lire ( pounds 8,000), or on carpet for L30m. You can buy copies of the Greek pillars and rainbow neon arch that framed the Craxi deity in 1991, and the colossal pyramid-shaped television screen that projected his image in 1989.

There are pictures of Mr Craxi on party buttons, his unreadable books and videos of his speeches, but for the real connoisseur there is his throne - the red modern Techno armchair from which he presided over the 1987 congress. Of this there is only one and Mr Panseca will attach a little brass plaque guaranteeing it is genuine. Then there are the magnums of red Friuli Cabernet Franc wine, with Mr Craxi's signature in the glass, bottled for the Socialist party's 100th anniversary in 1992. It was surely the flattest anniversary in history, thanks to the scandals, and they are now going for 150,000 lire each. But a real prize, according to Dove, is one of the solid gold visiting cards handed out by the disgraced Christian Democrat Gianni Prandini, when he was transport minister: 'Impossible to find and priceless.'