Berlusconi’s former residence turned into foreign press HQ

By Thomson Reuters Mar 19, 2024 | 7:30 AM

By Alvise Armellini

ROME (Reuters) – The grand Roman residence where Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had his political headquarters – and allegedly hosted sex parties – has been converted into the home of the international press.

Berlusconi, who died last June aged 86, dominated Italian politics from the 1990s onwards while embroiled in a string of corruption sagas and so-called “bunga bunga” sex scandals. He occupied a section of the Palazzo Grazioli building from 1996-2020.

The 1,600-square-metre space has now been turned into an office and press conference centre, complete with chandeliers and frescoed ceilings, for the 450 members of Italy’s Foreign Press Association.

The Italian government traditionally pays for the rent of the association and the sparkling new site, located just off the central Piazza Venezia, was inaugurated on Tuesday by Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

One of billionaire Berlusconi’s many homes across Italy, the venue featured during his occupany an office with bullet-proof windows and a double-size canopy bed donated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a personal friend.

The residence was also linked to prostitution. Businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini was convicted of recruiting call girls to attend Berlusconi’s late-night parties at the Palazzo, in the hope of winning favours from the then-prime minister.

One of these women, Patrizia D’Addario, said in court and in a book that she refused to take part in an orgy with Berlusconi but had sex with him on the bed gifted by Putin on the night Barack Obama won his first U.S. presidential elections in 2008.

Berlusconi said in 2009 he was not aware D’Addario was a call girl but never explicitly denied their night together, admitting that he was “no saint”.

Duke Giulio Grazioli, an aristocrat whose family has owned the Palazzo since the 1840s, told the Foreign Press Association Yearbook that he saw a lot of people coming and going while Berlusconi was his tenant.

“It was very entertaining from that point of view,” he said.

Berlusconi, a conservative media mogul constantly dogged by conflict of interest issues, had an uneasy relationship with the press, and was particularly wary of foreign media, which he considered biased against him.

“I don’t know what Berlusconi would be thinking, from up there … about this bunch of communists, as he would say, moving into Palazzo Grazioli”, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni joked last month at an event with foreign journalists.

(Editing by Crispian Balmer and Gareth Jones)