Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi's deal to buy an estate in the prestigious Montalcino area of Tuscany has fallen through, Italian newspapers report today.

The newly-planted 15ha Castello della Velona estate, which lies 9km from Montalcino in Italy’s Sant’Antimo area, appeared to have successfully changed hands on 22 February when Berlusconi was seen visiting the grounds. Its purchase was reported in both Florence’s La Nazione newspaper and the Corriere di Siena.

The collapse of the sale has taken many by surprise, including Stefano Campatelli of the Brunello di Montalcino Consorzio, and Ezio Rivella of neighbouring Castello Banfi. Both believed the sale had been finalised.

Campatelli could give no reason for the turn of events, and the estate’s owner Luigi Piermartini – a property developer who ran the ancient castle and its grounds as a hotel – refused to say why the sale had failed to go through. ‘I have plenty of other offers,’ he said.

The Berlusconi family controls three television networks and a third of Italy’s book and magazine publishing industry. One industry observer commented that the lack of an explanation in Italian newspapers comes as little surprise.

Written by Liz Hughes26 February 2003