I chased Berlusconi, says lover, 28
Silvio Berlusconi's 28-year-old girlfriend says he initially did not want a relationship and she chased the 76-year-old former premier relentlessly until he finally surrendered and is now just waiting for him to agree to marry her.
In an interview in the Italian edition of Vanity Fair, Francesca Pascale described two years of pain and jealousy as Berlusconi responded to the failure of his second marriage by throwing lavish parties for young women. His relationship with a 17-year-old guest at the "bunga bunga" parties eventually got him convicted of paying for sex with a minor and pressuring public officials to cover it up. Both he and the woman deny having sex and an appeal is under way.
Ms Pascale said she met "B," as she calls him, in 2006 while working for his political party, though she confessed she set him in her sights much earlier, when she was under 18. "At home my mother said "We admire him as well, but he could be your father,'" she said.
She nevertheless persisted and professed her love for him in 2009 while he was in a Milan hospital recovering from an attack during a political rally. By then they were close, but she said they never spent time in private together because he was still married and she wanted to respect his family."He told me: 'Don't even talk about it, you're too young, I can't give you the future you deserve.'"
Ms Pascale said she continued insisting, even while Berlusconi went through the "bunga bunga" phase after his marriage to Veronica Lario fell apart in 2009-2010. Ms Lario divorced him, citing his infatuation with younger women. "It was a period of diffidence, of disillusion, he was incapable of showing true love for a woman," Ms Pascale said. "For him that emotion didn't exist any more. And in his eyes, I was a dreamer. It wasn't an easy time for me. And I never went to those dinners, because I wouldn't have been able to control myself."
Her persistence paid off; she said Berlusconi presented her with a diamond ring on Christmas 2011. "He completely rejected me," she said of her initial volley. "But mine is an unending courtship. It's still going on today. Even when he gave me the ring, it's not like he made a declaration of love."
Ms Pascale, however, has been a constant beside Berlusconi as he has gone through some of the most trying times of his life: Italy's high court in August upheld his tax fraud conviction and the Senate is considering whether to strip him of his parliament seat as a result.
The Court of Cassation also recently upheld a ruling that his family's investment company pay a nearly 500 million euros fine for corruption relating to the purchase of the Mondadori publishing house, which became a key step in the creation of Berlusconi's media empire in the 1990s.
Ms Pascale defends Berlusconi fiercely, both in his judicial woes and his reputation as a womaniser. "My president isn't a saint, but he is absolutely unable to treat women like objects," she told the magazine.
Recently she wrote on Facebook "for richer and poorer, until death do we part," prompting speculation that wedding bells were in the air. "The norm has been that I always make the first move," she said. "I sought him out, I courted him, I made him fall in love and I made him my boyfriend. Practically I've done everything: he only has to say 'yes.'"