pkg wedeman Berlusconi love springs eternal_00002128
Berlusconi engaged to 27-year-old
03:16 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Berlusconi's bride-to-be is 27-year-old Francesca Pascale

"What can a man of 76 do with a 27-year-old girl?" a butcher asks

Italy's former prime minister faces trial on charges he hired an underage prostitute for sex

Berlusconi dominated Italian politics for nearly two decades until resigning last year

Rome CNN  — 

Italy’s flamboyant former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi plans to marry a former television showgirl-turned-politician a half century younger, he told an Italian talk show this week.

Francesca Pascale, 27, is “a girl who is beautiful on the outside, but even more beautiful on the inside,” the 76-year-old Berlusconi said.

The billionaire, who resigned as prime minister just over a year ago at the height of his country’s debt crisis, told an interviewer earlier this month that he will run again to be Italy’s leader.

The bride-to-be is from Naples, Italy, where she appeared as a showgirl on a local television station. She later became an activist and was elected to be a local council official representing Berlusconi’s People of Liberty Party.

Italians on the street – or at the market – revealed mixed feelings about Berlusconi’s latest news.

“If it’s fine for him an also for her, it should be fine for everyone,” said one shopper.

A butcher who was asked said he found it hard to believe. “What can a man of 76 do with a 27-year-old girl?” he asked.

Opinion: What does Silvio’s return mean for Italy?

Berlusconi, who has been married twice before, is accused of involvement with someone even younger.

He faces trial on charges that he hired an underage prostitute for sex and later tried to pull strings to get her out of jail when she was accused of theft. The woman involved in the long-running case is Moroccan dancer Karima el Mahroug, nicknamed “Ruby the Heart-stealer.”

Berlusconi has been accused of embezzlement, fraud and bribery over his career, but a tax-evasion case marked the first time he had been convicted of an offense.

In October, a Milan court sentenced Berlusconi to four years in prison for tax evasion.

However, under the Italian legal system, he and his fellow defendants have the right to appeal their sentence twice, in the appeals court and a higher court.

Also, because the case dates to July 2006, the statute of limitations will expire next year, meaning there is a good chance none of the defendants will serve any prison time.

Berlusconi, who dominated Italian politics for nearly two decades, did not reveal a wedding date.

CNN’s Ben Wedeman in Rome contributed to this report.