Sack of Rome

If you’re following the news in Italy (or maybe you’re not), recently, the Italian government headed by Romano Prodi has fallen, not that anyone is really surprised. Italian governments have fallen so many times that it’s almost impossible to keep count. As a tourist to Rome, you’re probably not going to notice much as you go about the business of enjoying your vacation nor will you notice that the political establishment is in turmoil, everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else about whose fault it really is.

What is surprising is that not even the concept of ABB could stop the government falling this time – that is, Anyone But Berlusconi. Love him or hate him, he’s an interesting man who has had a profound impact on Italy over the past 40 years. Before your next trip to Rome, I would suggest that you read The Sack of Rome: Media + Money + Celebrity = Power = Silvio Berlusconi by Alexander Stille. This insightful and detailed account of Berlusconi’s rise as il re del mattone (king of bricks, a reference to Berlusconi’s early business ventures as a venture capitalist, who built condos and apartments) to the head of the Italian government will leave you scratching your head for so many reasons – do you admire Berlusconi for his drive and never give up attitude? Or do you loathe him for some of his less ethical choices in his business dealings? Stille presents a portrait of Berlusconi that is unique in that he does not go at it from an emotional point of view. Reading the introduction, it’s no surprise that Stille is not a fan of Berlusconi, but he doesn’t sway the reader with his personal dislike. He presents a story of facts that allow the reader to draw their own conclusions.

I really enjoyed this book and spent all weekend reading it. Not only does one learn much about Berlusconi’s rise to power but also how Italian business operates, the rise of privately owned television in Italy and various facets of Italian politics.

Originally published in 2006 under a slightly different title, this revised addition includes an updated introduction by the author.

Other books by Alexander Stille: