The unworldly world of the Berlusconi sisters

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The Independent Online

Their father, Italy's richest man, has dominated the nation's life of the past 10 years - his name, his face and opinions are everywhere, inescapable.

Their father, Italy's richest man, has dominated the nation's life of the past 10 years - his name, his face and opinions are everywhere, inescapable.

But Silvio Berlusconi's teenage daughters Barbara, 19, and Eleonora, 18, have been brought up like princesses in a gloomy old fairy tale: raised in the immense, manicured grounds of Villa Belvedere, 18 miles from Milan, schooled in the Rudolf Steiner system (no television, lots of art), learning to play the piano and harp.

That at least is the world of the daughters of Berlusconi's second wife, Veronica Lario, as presented yesterday in the Italian edition of Vanity Fair . It is an interview, their first ever, that reads as if it has been as carefully pruned as one of the Villa Belvedere's kumquat trees.

Of their relations with their father, for example: "Papa has always pursued his objectives in a total way," intones Barbara, "and this has enabled him to project himself in the world, but at the expense of the completeness of family life. Notwithstanding the distance, our relationship is one of intense affection, trust and esteem."

But Barbara, who is already on the board of Fininvest, Berlusconi's finance company, does have some tough words for dad: sell the TV companies, she urges. "The point is that in a market like ours, a global one, the investments of Fininvest should not be too concentrated in Italy."

Otherwise, the girls are four square behind the old man. Conflict of interest? "My father divides politics and business perfectly," Barbara snaps. Choice of candidate at recent election? "It's pretty obvious who we voted for," says Eleonora.

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