Berlusconi's fiancee (27) is groomed to be Italy's 'first lady'
Silvio Berlusconi's 27-year-old fiancee is being groomed for what the former Italian prime minister hopes will be her ascent to 'first lady' as he plots an audacious return to the front line of politics.
Behind the scenes of Italy's heated political wrangling, Francesca Pascale is reported to to have closed her Facebook profile, undergone minor plastic surgery and changed her phone number.
She is permitted to give interviews only with the approval of Mr Berlusconi's centre-right PdL party, according to Italian media.
Miss Pascale's transformation has begun ahead of the campaign next month by Mr Berlusconi to be elected prime minister for a fourth time.
It remains to be seen whether Italy's mostly Catholic voters, embarrassed by Mr Berlusconi's 'bunga bunga' party antics, are ready to embrace Miss Pascale, who is 50 years his junior. For the past year, Italy's 'first lady' has been Elsa Antonioli, the wife of Mario Monti and a reserved Red Cross volunteer and grandmother who rarely misses Mass.
Miss Pascale, the daughter of a wedding photographer who grew up in Naples, began dancing for a kitsch television show when she was 14.
She left showbusiness, studied political science and became a provincial councillor for PdL, but stepped down in July.
Earlier this month the billionaire confirmed their relationship, calling her "beautiful on the inside and the outside". "Finally I feel less lonely," Mr Berlusconi said. "I am engaged to a Neapolitan, it's official."
Miss Pascale is said to be friends with Mr Berlusconi's daughter, Marina, who is chairwoman of Italy's largest magazine publisher, Mondadori.
Miss Pascale met Mr Berlusconi in 2004 when she was 19. "I followed him as if he were a rock star," Miss Pascale said. "I met him in Rome at a lunch for European parliamentarians. I arrived wearing a T-shirt that read 'Silvio, we miss you', to which he said, 'Finally, I get to meet you'."
This month, Daniela Santanche, an MP in Mr Berlusconi's party who is known to be part of his inner circle, referred to her as Italy's "new first lady".
Nicole Minetti, a former Anglo-Italian showgirl, who once called Mr Berlusconi the "love of my life", was reported as saying she too believes Miss Pascale would make an "excellent first lady". Miss Minetti has been a member of Lombardy's regional assembly since catching Mr Berlusconi's eye. She was accused of procuring dancers and escorts for lavish "bunga bunga" parties, charges which she denies.
Mr Berlusconi is trying to stage a comeback after stepping aside a year ago to make way for a technocratic government appointed to stave off impending financial crisis. Its leader, Mr Monti, officially resigned last week. (© Daily Telegraph, London)