http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/30/world/europe/30italy.html?_r=1 April 30, 2009 Rome Journal Premiers Roving Eye Enrages Wife, but Not His Public By RACHEL DONADIO ROME Yet again, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconis wife has written a public letter rebuking her 72-year-old husband for consorting with young and chesty women who are not her. Among them is a business associates daughter who has posed in underwear revealing most of her bottom and whose 18th birthday party Mr. Berlusconi recently attended in Naples. This surprised me, Veronica Lario, 52, Mr. Berlusconis wife, told the ANSA news agency in a communiqué released late Tuesday. Because he never attended the 18th birthday parties of his children, even if he was invited. And yet again, this is not likely to hurt Mr. Berlusconi, despite something of a public period of mourning over the earthquake that struck the Abruzzo region this month, killing nearly 300 people and leaving 65,000 homeless. There seems little doubt here that Mr. Berlusconi, who has been praised for the governments swift response to the earthquake, will again defy the political death he would have suffered in most any other country because, in fact, he knows his own country exceptionally well. As always, its one of those crises that will work in his favor, said Giuliano Ferrara, the editor of Il Foglio, a center-right newspaper, who is a sometime adviser to Mr. Berlusconi. Everyone would prefer that he be a statesman and cry over the earthquake, but he wont give this up, Mr. Ferrara said. Mr. Berlusconis penchant for lauding and promoting attractive women is a huge part of Italian society, he added. People identify with it. Involving every archetype in Italian life the rogue husband, the scorned wife, the much younger woman, the sainted mother the soap opera gripped the country and the front pages. Ms. Larios comments were prompted by, of all things, a recent debate over the June elections for the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, a political entity best known in Italy for the high salaries and low accountability of its members. The problem, from her point of view, is that Mr. Berlusconi gets to pick the candidates for his center-right party, and Tuesdays papers were full of large color photographs of the young and comely women he chose, apparently more for their pictures than for their résumés. Someone has written that this is just a diversion for an emperor, Ms. Lario wrote. I agree, she added. What emerges from the newspapers is shamelessly trashy, all in the name of power. Mr. Berlusconi struck back at his wife on Wednesday. Im afraid that the signora believed what she read in the newspapers, ANSA quoted him as saying while he was traveling in Warsaw. He added that she had been subject to the manipulations of the left-wing press. Yet on Tuesday, Il Giornale, the center-right daily owned by Mr. Berlusconi himself, featured a two-page spread with large color photos of eight young, attractive women it said were being considered as candidates. They included a participant in a top reality television show and Barbara Matera, 28, an announcer on the leading government television channel, a prefinalist in the 2000 Miss Italy contest, and a university graduate. In the end, Ms. Matera was the only television personality to make the cut. ANSA reported that Mr. Berlusconi, in Warsaw, said that anyone who dared criticize the candidates should be ashamed of themselves. He added that he did not want anyone smelly or badly dressed" running for the European Parliament, like the candidates of some other parties. This weeks letter is not the first in which Ms. Lario has publicly denounced her husband on the same grounds. In February 2007, she published an open letter in La Repubblica, the center-left daily newspaper, criticizing the prime minister for flirting with some young women at a party and praising the beauty of Mara Carfagna, a former showgirl whom he named equal opportunities minister. Ms. Larios latest criticism also comes in the context of speculation about a brewing power struggle between the children of Mr. Berlusconis first marriage, or first bed, as the Italian phrase goes, and those of his second, with Ms. Lario, over his media and even political empire. Not everyone was pleased with such rumor-mongering. Its very Italian and very sad that every time a woman speaks the truth people think something is behind her, said Maria Latella, the author of a biography of Ms. Lario and the editor of A, a womens magazine. Ms. Latella said that she had not discussed the issue with Ms. Lario. Being the wife of the premier and reading every day the same articles about the same TV girls, selected just because they are beautiful and brilliant but having no experience in politics maybe was a little tiring for the first lady, Ms. Latella said. On Wednesday, Dario Franceschini, the center-left leader, said in a statement on his coalitions Web site that Mr. Berlusconi ignored Italian women as they are in reality. He has in mind a world of luxury, showgirls and money, very different from the real Italy, Mr. Franceschini added. But as Mr. Berlusconi figured out long ago, while building a real estate and television empire before dominating Italian political life, there is a good chance that Italians prefer the image. Leanne Kilroy contributed reporting.