The story of Arcore
It’s a story that reads like a film. As a plot of a film it would be dismissed as barely credible. A story that involves the aristocracy, politicians and a Prime Minister, as well as sex, murder and the Mafia, and yet is unknown outside Italy.
Arcore is Silvio Berlusconi’s home. As a multi billionaire he could choose any home he liked and pay any price, but Arcore is his pride and joy. A 17th century palace of 3500 square metres with 147 rooms, a park, stables and pool. For one such as Berlusconi it must be very satisfying to know that his beloved residence was bought for a song, one which he would no doubt croon at his elegant dinners. It’s a story of love, sex and passion, and mafia connections.
The opening scene of the story is set in 1970 has as its anti-hero the Marquis Camillo Casati Stampa di Soncino, hugely wealthy and on his second marriage. His family had been the owner of the the Palazzo of Arcore, ex Benedictine monastery in the comune of Monza, for centuries. It is a vast place, with classical paintings by the like of Tintoretto and Tiepoli and a 10000 volume library considered to be the finest in Italy for the quality and history of its volumes. It is a property that would be valued in 1977 by Berlusconi’s bank lenders at over 7 billion lire – about 26 million euros today, and equivalent to 3.5 million pounds at the time.
The Marchese had a daughter, Anna Maria, by his first wife, who when the story opens was 19 years old, still a minor according to the laws of the time. The Marchese’s second wife was Anna Fallarino, and not born into the aristocracy. She was a girl from Benevento, near Naples, and had tried her hand at acting, securing a bit part in a pretty ropey film ‘Totò Tarzan’. She had been introduced to the Marchese, and became first a friend to his then wife, ex ballerina Letizia Izzo, and then his lover. When he decided he wanted to marry her, he gave the Church 1 billion lire to obtain his divorce from Letizia. All this has happened by 1961 – and by 1970 the couples relationship wasn’t quite so straightforward. In fact the Marchese paid all manner of working men to have sex with his wife while he photographed and filmed them together. One of these young men was a student, Massimo Minorenti who made the fatal mistake of falling in love with the woman he was paid to pleasure. At the end of the summer the Marchese called his wife at 4 in the morning, and hearing Minorenti answer the phone was taken with a fit of jealousy. He drove home from Rome, caught the two lovers and shot them both before shooting himself.
Everything that subsequently happened depends on the order in which the victims died, as the wills left everything to the other one before their nearest and dearest. The police when they arrived on the scene declared that Fallarino still seemed to be alive, her husband and lover both dead. The Marchese’s will left everything to his wife except a painting (valued at 100 million lire) to his daughter. The Fallarino family engaged a lawyer – Cesare Previti to represent them, (who was going out with the murdered wife’s sister) but he very soon switched sides to represent the orphan daughter Anna Maria when the autopsy proved that the Marchese had outlived his wife by a couple of minutes.
Anna Maria, as sole heir, was now immensely rich. She emigrated to Brasil, fleeing the press and gossip, leaving Previti with a mandate to sell off some of the family’s property, including Villa Arcore, valued then at 1.7 billion lire. When Previti called her with an offer for the property of 500 million lire (about 250.000 sterling), it is said that she thought it miserable, Previti however telling her that it was an offer only for the buildings and not the contents or the land. The buyer was Berlusconi who succeeded in not only buying the entire property including contents for the 500 million lire, (even though expressly excluded by the mandate for the sale) but also paid in instalments over 6 years – leaving Anna Maria to pay all the taxes on the property until 1980 when the sale was completed. Berlusconi obtained a historic estate for less than the price of a flat in Milan, as well as a vast tract of land which subsequently became buildable and now houses Milano 2 – a huge residential complex, and owned by Berlusconi’s companies.
Once owner of Arcore Berlusconi installed his friend and now jailed Mafia connection Marcello dell’Utri as ‘librarian’, and a real life mafioso, Vittorio Mangano as his stable man. Cesare Previti became one of Berlusconi’s best friends, an MP for Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party and Minister of defence before being sentenced for various crimes involving Berlusconi companies, being disbarred, and being banned from holding public office in perpetuity. Still one of Berlusconi’s best friends he has a special tomb prepared for him in Berlusconi’s mausoleum built in the grounds of Arcore, (along with dell’Utri), where he will be interred close to the rose marble sarcophagus that Berlusconi has had prepared for himself.
Arcore itself hit the headlines again due to the connections of Berlusconi’s ‘elegant dinners’ and the bunga bunga girls – still in the headlines 12 years on. The property, thanks to Berlusconi, is now protected as a state secret.