ROME (AP) — Here's one way to land a billionaire: Silvio Berlusconi's 28-year-old girlfriend says she courted the 76-year-old former premier relentlessly until he finally surrendered.
Now she's just waiting for him to agree to marry her.
In an interview published Wednesday in the Italian edition of Vanity Fair, Francesca Pascale described two years of pain and jealousy as Berlusconi responded to the failure of his second marriage by throwing lavish "bunga bunga" parties for young women.
Pascale said she met "B," as she calls him, in 2006 while working for his political party, although she had him in her sights much earlier, when she was under 18.
"He completely rejected me," she said of her initial volley. "But mine is an unending courtship. It's still going on today."
Pascale professed her love for him in 2009 while Berlusconi was in a Milan hospital recovering from an attack by an unstable man. By then they were close, but she said they never spent time in private together because he was still married.
"He told me: 'Don't even talk about it, you're too young, I can't give you the future you deserve,'" she said.
Finally her persistence paid off; she said Berlusconi gave her a diamond ring on Christmas 2011.
Pascale has been beside Berlusconi's side as he has gone through some of the most trying times of his life: Italy's high court in August upheld his tax fraud conviction and the Senate is considering whether to strip him of his Parliament seat as a result. His relationship with a 17-year-old guest at his "bunga bunga" parties eventually got him convicted of paying for sex with a minor and pressuring public officials to cover it up. Both he and the woman deny having sex and an appeal is underway.
Pascale defends Berlusconi fiercely.
"My president isn't a saint, but he is absolutely unable to treat women like objects," she told the magazine.
Recently she wrote on Facebook "for richer and poorer, until death do we part," prompting speculation that wedding bells were in the air.
It's certainly what she would like.
"I sought him out, I courted him, I made him fall in love and I made him my boyfriend," Pascale said. "Practically I've done everything: He only has to say 'Yes.'"