Florence is 'not a hotbed of bunga bunga'
THE mayor of Florence has denied that the Renaissance city is a hotbed of "bunga bunga" amid a growing scandal involving prostitutes being paid for sex by council officials and local worthies.
Goings-on in the city of Dante and the Medicis have invited comparisons with parties organised by Silvio Berlusconi, who was this week sentenced to seven years' jail after being found guilty of paying for sex with an underage prostitute.
Having followed Berlusconi's escapades avidly, Florentines now have a sex scandal on their doorstep.
Prosecutors are investigating an alleged network of 142 prostitutes, many of them from Eastern Europe, who were allegedly paid for sex by council officials and businessmen in two of the city's smart hotels.
Fourteen people are being investigated for procuring prostitutes on the basis of 4,000 pages of transcripts of telephone calls intercepted by the police.
Sexual encounters also allegedly went on in council offices – on one occasion a cleaning lady allegedly caught an official in the act with a prostitute, a 42-year-old Romanian identified only as Adriana.
The investigation, code-named 'Bella Vita' or 'Beautiful Life' by prosecutors, found that she had been given a free council-owned flat to live in, and also received clients there.
Matteo Renzi, Florence's centre-left mayor, who is tipped as a future Italian prime minister, has said the affair was nowhere near as salacious as the ones that engulfed Berlusconi.
"(The scandal) cannot be portrayed as bunga bunga in Palazzo Vecchio," declared Mr Renzi (38) referring to the crenellated, 13th-century town hall which is the seat of the council.
The mayor, a practising Catholic, was responding not just to the reports of the prostitution scandal, but also to more specific criticism from Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, the archbishop of Florence, who recently portrayed the Tuscan city as a den of iniquity. (©Daily Telegraph, London)