Italy’s departing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has reportedly packed up two gifts ahead of his last day in office on Wednesday — a scimitar from Kazakhstan and a Ming dynasty vase from China.
The report in La Repubblica newspaper said the larger-than-life billionaire, who has been in power for 10 of the past 17 years, had chosen the two objects as having particular sentimental value out of hundreds of gifts received.
When receiving the vase he shocked diplomats by pretending to drop it and then quipped: “I like the flowers on it, but next time bring one with pictures of the kamasutra” — an erotic art that has nothing to do with China.
La Repubblica said he was also packing away three framed photos of himself with former US president George W. Bush, Pope Benedict XVI and the late pope John Paul II, as well as returning priceless artwork borrowed from museums.
Berlusconi set off titters last year when he ordered art restorers to attach a new penis to a 2nd-century marble statue of the Roman god of war Mars on loan from a museum which was exhibited in his official palace in Palazzo Chigi.
His architect fended off the controversy saying the penis was “removable”.
Berlusconi’s personal cook and butler are also leaving along with spokesman Paolo Bonaiuti and loyal secretary Marinella Brambilla, as the altogether more sober economics professor Mario Monti takes over the reins of power.
“The most delicate clear-up operation — the deleting of all traces on PCs, the copying of data and documents, was completed with dozens of memory cards on Saturday night by cabinet staff” in “a very rapid blitz,” the report said.
The 75-year-old Berlusconi submitted his resignation on Saturday amid scenes of jubilation in a crowd of thousands of people in the streets of Rome.