Italy has long captivated romantics from rainy, dreary, orderly northern Europe. Goethe, Stendhal, Keats and Shelley all flocked to Italy in search of the ideal society. There they found what they thought was a utopia. ‘There is,’ Byron marvelled in a letter home from Ravenna, ‘no law or government at all, and it is wonderful how well things go on without them.’
Well, Silvio Berlusconi has made some of Europe’s wisest men sound like chumps. If the notorious career — chronicled in the podcast Bunga Bunga — of the longest-serving prime minister of Italy since Mussolini and its sometime richest man has done one good thing, it’s to have dispelled for good our quixotic fantasies about his troubled nation.
As we learn in this eight-episode chronicle of his life, Berlusconi was born in 1936, into the comfortable Milanese middle class.