Photography Tony Kelly
There’s something about Italian women. Even the policewomen are drop-dead sexy. At their best, Italian women ooze glamour and class. And Evelina Manna is Italian womanhood at its most seductive and also its most dangerous. She has the kind of curves a saint or even a head of state could fall for—and that’s exactly what happened. For four years she was Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s mistress, and it was by all accounts a fiery affair.
“When things are real between a man and a woman, then they are strong, yes?” she says while sitting in the restaurant at her Rome hotel, which overlooks the Vatican. “There will be much shouting.” And much of everything else.
It was back in 2005 that Evelina met Berlusconi, the bad boy of Italian politics, the 118th richest man in the world (with a personal fortune estimated at $7.8 billion), the prime minister of Italy three times in the past 17 years. He has become known the world over as the man who held notorious “bunga bunga” parties at his villas, where up to 20 girls would cavort—often in the nude, pole dancing and more—for the 75-year-old and his cronies. For a politician, Berlusconi’s gaffes are colossal: congratulating President Obama on his “suntan” and telling a group of Wall Street traders that of all the reasons to invest in Italy, the most important is that “we have the most beautiful secretaries in the world.”
Berlusconi’s sexual liaisons have become the stuff of legend. His wife (at the time) has even called him “sick” in the press. He is also a deeply embattled figure, currently facing three court cases for bribery, corruption and allegedly paying an underage Moroccan belly dancer known as Ruby the Heart Stealer for sex.
It’s no surprise when you meet Evelina Manna—model, film actress and now film producer—why she caught the prime minister’s eye. And why for a couple of years before the bunga bungas started she was his full-time mistress.
“Six years ago I was promoting Alexander, a film in which I had a part,” she recalls, “and I did an interview in an Italian magazine. They had taken beautiful pictures of me, very intellectual, black and white. Naked, yes, but artistic. In the interview they asked me who was my ideal man. I said, ‘Someone with the intelligence of JFK Jr., the passion of Che Guevara and the cunning of Silvio Berlusconi.’ ”
Sometime after, Evelina’s phone rang. It was Berlusconi’s secretary: “I am calling from the office of the prime minister.” “I said, ‘Yes, and I’m Mother Teresa!’ ” Evelina says. But it was no joke.
They met for tea in Berlusconi’s Rome apartment, and the attraction was immediate. “I was totally in love after I left his apartment the first time,” Evelina says. “Of course, power is an aphrodisiac in any field.” The next day she went with Berlusconi to lunch at his villa in Sardinia. “It was a beautiful day, much more romantic. We had lunch. It was a light fish lunch. He eats very healthily. He is 75. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t take drugs. Just women! In Italy it is very common to have the ‘women disease.’ It’s not just Berlusconi. After lunch that day, let’s just say we were together.”
And how were things that first time in the bedroom? “It was fantastic!” says Evelina. “He is a man. Very male. It is the fantasy of journalists to imagine he is into crazy stuff. It is true that when there is love, you can do a lot. But we had a beautiful relationship. It was clean.”
Is Berlusconi still capable of performing six times a night, as his personal physician has said in the Italian press? Says Evelina, “It depends on the woman.”
Evelina insists on calling the affair her “love story.” And it persisted, even though Berlusconi was married at the time. “I was a proper girlfriend,” she says. “I remember when I was seeing him during the political campaigns of 2006 and 2008. He would come back to his apartment in Rome and his jacket pockets would be full of pieces of paper with the telephone numbers of women who had put them in there. He was proud of the fact that women had been slipping their phone numbers into his pockets all day. He is quite a vain person, so he likes the attention.
“One time I got so jealous,” she continues. “I was screaming and shouting and scribbling on the mirror with lipstick, I was so crazy. He walked out of my apartment, and after a few minutes I decided to chase him. I ran out into the street, but I couldn’t see his car anywhere. So I jumped on my Vespa motorbike and was driving around the streets really fast looking for him. Then I saw his big presidential limousine in the distance. I drove as fast as I could over the cobblestone streets until I caught up with the car, and I started banging on the windows with both fists. Berlusconi rolled down the window and said, ‘Evelina, you must not be so jealous.’ ”
Then one day the affair came to an end, in 2009. Berlusconi was going through a divorce. His mother had died, and the bunga bunga parties started. And Evelina went her own way, soldiering on with her career. “I haven’t yet met another man like that,” she says. Then she states the obvious: “It is hard to find a man who can follow the prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, into my bedroom.”