State funeral for Berlusconi: One last “Ciao Silvio”

An early Wednesday morning the stream of pilgrims had swelled again. From all corners of the country they came back to the Villa San Martino in Arcore north of Milan to bring flowers and wreaths, stuffed animals, football scarves and jerseys, as well as banners (“Grazie Presidente”, “Ciao Silvio”) and party flags in front of the fence the tall hedge and the even taller trees beyond.

Matthias Rub

Political correspondent for Italy, the Vatican, Albania and Malta based in Rome.

The police blocked traffic on the narrow Viale San Martino on Monday afternoon, a few hours after the news of Silvio Berlusconi’s death in the San Raffaele Clinic in Milan broke out around the world.

Praise for Berlusconi’s achievements for football

During Berlusconi’s cumulative ten-year reign – he was Italian Prime Minister four times – she “always felt safe,” says an elderly lady who came from Palermo in Sicily. A young man from Udine pays his last respects to the “great man and political leader” in front of his residence.

A middle-aged man from Naples, wearing a dark tie and black jacket, brought the shirt of SSC Napoli, the newly crowned soccer champions in 2023, and praises Berlusconi for not having been in charge of Italian club football as AC Milan club president from 1986 to 2004 lifted up more reached heights.

Berlusconi acquired the Arcore estate, built in the 18th century by the noble Casati Stampa family, in 1974 at the age of 37. For almost half a century, Villa San Martino, also known as Villa Arcore, was the headquarters and retreat of the property developer, media tycoon, football manager and politician. And the family patriarch, who lived there with his two wives, with whom he has a total of five children and from whom he divorced quite spectacularly, as well as with his last two partners.

The coffin with the body of Berlusconi on June 14, 2023 in Milan Cathedral

The coffin with the body of Berlusconi on June 14, 2023 in Milan Cathedral

Image: EPA

They in turn became younger and younger as Berlusconi grew older. Marta Fascina, MP for Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party and his very last companion, who accompanied him to his deathbed, is 33 years old. Berlusconi died at the age of 87.

Berlusconi remained true to his preference for historical properties when he later bought real estate – in Sardinia, near Rome, in the mountains – which he had renovated at great expense but carefully. No residence is as closely linked to Berlusconi’s career and life as the villa in Arcore, barely 30 kilometers from his hometown of Milan.

It was in Arcore that he made his most important decisions, both as a businessman and as a politician. After his last and final resignation from the post of Prime Minister at the end of 2011, he set up a kind of museum for himself there, with memorabilia, documents and gifts from foreign heads of state and government.

A mausoleum in the garden of the villa

In the park with mature trees that surrounds the villa with 145 rooms, the library with 10,000 volumes, the various service buildings and the stables, Berlusconi also had a mausoleum built for himself and his immediate family. It is called “The Heavenly Vault” and was built from a hundred tons of light travertine according to the plans of the sculptor Pietro Cascella. It still doesn’t house any dead, just a pink marble sarcophagus. In this the urn is buried after the cremation of the mortal remains of Berlusconi.

Or not. According to reports, the mayor of Arcore has not yet received an application for a special permit for burial on private property. When the mausoleum was being built, it was said that Berlusconi had had the tomb built without the necessary permission from the authorities.

A showman at heart: Silvio Berlusconi on May 20, 2014 in the TV show “Bersaglio mobile”

picture series

On the death of Silvio Berlusconi

A master of self-presentation

Around an hour and a half before the start of the state funeral and the funeral mass at 3 p.m., Berlusconi’s coffin, covered with white and red roses, leaves the villa in Arcore and is driven to the cathedral in Milan. The hearse passes the most important fixed stars of Berlusconi’s business universe, the headquarters of the radio and television station Mediaset on the Tangenziale Est city motorway, the Milano Due district, with the construction of which Berlusconi rose to a national construction giant in the 1970s and later to an international media mogul.

The San Raffaele Polyclinic, where Berlusconi had to be treated repeatedly in recent years, is also located in Milano Due, a spacious and green residential area that is still of good quality today. From there, the coffin with his remains was taken to Arcore on Monday, from where it was then driven to the cathedral in Milan on Wednesday.

There, on a warm Italian afternoon in early summer, leading politicians and personalities from business, entertainment and sport bid farewell to Berlusconi at the state funeral. With much applause and with many tears. On the square in front of the massive cathedral, thousands follow the funeral service on four large screens, which will be celebrated by Milan’s Archbishop Mario Delpini.

When the coffin was carried into the church, people applauded, huge flags of AC Milan were waved, the football club that achieved its greatest national and international successes under Berlusconi’s presidency.

When Berlusconi announced his entry into politics in January 1994 with a memorable speech that was broadcast for days in a kind of endless loop by his television and radio stations, he began with the famous sentence: “L’Italia è il paese che amo”. (Italy is the country I love). Not all of Italy, but a significant part, returned this love.

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