Bad Spouses: Italy’s First Couple

With a notoriously philandering husband linked to an 18-year-old starlet and a wife who practices marital therapy in the press, is it any wonder that the recent breakup of Italy’s first couple is an ugly and public affair?

As reported in The New York Times, Veronica Lario, 52, who has been married to Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for 19 years, sent a letter to a daily newspaper accusing Mr. Berlusconi, 72, of cavorting with much younger women and claiming that she wants a divorce. “I’d like to close the curtain on our married life,” Ms. Lario told the center-left daily newspaper La Repubblica. She recently criticized Mr. Berlusconi for attending the eighteenth birthday party of an aspiring model, Noemi Letizia, who claimed in interviews that she calls the prime minister “Daddy” and that he gave her a gold and diamond necklace.

Shortly after publication of Ms. Lario’s letter, the prime minister released his own statement: “It’s a personal matter, and one that saddens me,” Mr. Berlusconi said. “It’s a private issue that’s best not discussed.” But now Mr. Berlusconi claims that even a public apology would not be enough to salvage their marriage and redress the high-profile undressing.

Mr. Berlusconi, one of Italy’s richest men, left his first wife for Ms. Lario in 1980, and the couple went on to have three children. This is far from the first time they’ve courted public scandal. In 2007, La Repubblica published another letter from Ms. Lario in which she demanded an apology from her husband for comments he made about the attractiveness of a former showgirl he appointed equal opportunities minister. That time Mr. Berlusconi, who at the time was running for his third term as prime minister, played along and issued a public apology: “Forgive me, however, I beg of you, and take this public testimony of private pride that submits to your anger as an act of love. One among many. A huge kiss. Silvio.”