The Heirs of an Empire
This article about Silvio Berlusconi’s daughters was published on July 16, 2004, in issue 31 of a magazine. One last question, Miss Barbara: do you still have a piercing on your tongue? “I took it off a few days ago. I had been wearing it for five years.” And you, Eleonora? Piercings, tattoos? “Me? No, I just had earrings.” End of the interview. Paola from the Macherio secretariat appears.
Villa Belvedere, 28 kilometers from Milan, the most private of Berlusconi’s residences, where his wife Veronica and their three children live, has a secretariat. “Your driver has arrived.” Barbara and Eleonora kindly prevented me from calling a taxi. We leave the high-windowed hall, cross two atriums. We walk on marble floors and under frescoed ceilings. In front of the house there is not the famous Veronica’s organic garden, but a perfect lawn. Like the imposing biscione-shaped flowerbed. Are there still goats in Macherio? The bucolic photo of the first lady and her children is in the collective imagination. Barbara is aware of this. She smiles: “We’ve been sending them to the mountains to graze for years. We used to play with them when we were children.”
I leave the gate, the tree-lined avenue, the eighteenth-century villa behind me. Audi A3 heading to Milan, there are 28 kilometers. The driver drives. I scroll through the notes from the beginning. In the blue damask-lined living room, among the family photos, two empty silver frames. Mity Simonetto, the family’s external relations officer, looks at them and decrees: “They are waiting for the photos of a magazine.” Barbara and Eleonora look alike. Blonde, green eyes the first, twenty years old on July 30th. Dark-haired, blue eyes the second, 18 years old on May 7th. Same expression: that of the mother. Barbara is wearing a Pucci skirt and T-shirt, silver sandals. Eleonora is in oversized jeans, blue blouse, sneakers. The first is sitting on the edge of the sofa, legs crossed, the second more on the defensive. This is her first interview. They are the heirs of an empire and also two non-conformist girls, out of the Steiner school. The one that stimulates creativity and distrusts television. Barbara plays the piano, Eleonora the harp. They have studied singing and acting. And if the eldest has toyed with the idea of becoming an actress, the youngest has always acted only as a hobby. Their friends, they assure, are schoolmates who come from normal families. Do you also resemble each other in character? BARBARA “Eleonora and I are antithetical in some ways: she is very reserved, I am extroverted.” ELEONORA “Barbara is self-confident and determined in her choices. But sometimes she gets angry and has something to say about everything and everyone, in reality she is just picky, she got that from dad.” BARBARA “Yes, I’m a bit picky. My sister, on the other hand, is stubborn to the point of stubbornness, but she makes it up with sweetness. And she is generous and sensitive.” Do you fight? ELEONORA “Maybe for five minutes, then we hug.”