Life with the Italian premier is not a bed of red roses, reveals Signora Berlusconi

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The Independent Online

She is married to Italy's richest and most powerful man, but the life of Mrs Silvio Berlusconi, as detailed in a biography published this week doesn't sound like much fun.

She is married to Italy's richest and most powerful man, but the life of Mrs Silvio Berlusconi, as detailed in a biography published this week doesn't sound like much fun.

Wry and candid disclosures in Tendenza Veronica by Maria Latella have got all Italy talking, after being trailed in the best-selling weekly Oggi .

The former starlet Veronica Lario gives her first account of marriage to a man who never takes her out or on holiday, talks on the telephone throughout meals, and sends mountains of red roses to unknown recipients.

"He's always got his ear pressed to a telephone," she says. "The cartoonists should draw him with a telephone cable coming out of his shoulders. He's on the phone at lunch, at supper, Christmas dinner..."

Ms Lario has been Silvio Berlusconi's companion for 25 years, and his wife, the second, since 1990. She has been striking both for her discretion and her absence: her appearance at her husband's side to welcome George and Laura Bush to Rome last month was highly exceptional; as was her disclosure last year that she was fiercely opposed to the Iraq war to which Italy had committed forces.

Last year Ms Lario hit the headlines when Mr Berlusconi drew attention to her rumoured love affair with Massimo Cacciari, a Marxist professor of philosophy and former mayor of Venice. But in the new book she puts the record straight: "Cacciari is an intellectual I admire, but I have never met him, as he himself has said."

If there was a prize offered for odd couples, the Berlusconis would surely win. He the vulgar billionaire arriviste; she a devotee of Proust and Goethe who grows organic vegetables and sends their children to Rudolf Steiner school. Her dream: to ramble the world on her own, "a cross," she says, "between [Bruce] Chatwin and [Jack] Kerouac".

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